S&F Furniture washed out by Willmar flood – West Central Tribune
“It is kind of devastating to have everything underwater,” said Agnes Schwanke, who owns the business with her husband, Virgil, daughter Connie Burns and Connie’s husband, Dave.
On Aug. 11, after over 8 inches of rain fell on the Willmar area, the low-lying furniture store ended up with nearly a foot of water in the store. The water damaged the floors, furniture and household decor items.
“We’ve never had that much rain,” Agnes Schwanke said.
The evening before the flood, she said it did not seem too bad. It was raining hard, but standing water had not reached the store. However, all the water from the surrounding area came pouring into the S&F lot, which is one of the lower points in that part of town.
“We’re the holding pond,” Connie Burns said.
Schwanke also said the ongoing development of the property around South First Street is probably making the situation worse. As more impervious surface is added — buildings and parking lots — storm water has fewer places to flow and be stored. The result is flooding as the water backs up.
Despite what happened in August, Schwanke is unable to purchase flood insurance for the business because the city of Willmar does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. The store had such coverage up to September 2015, but is no longer able to get a similar policy, Schwanke said.
“What happened you can’t prevent,” Schwanke said.
The store cleaned up, reopened and held a clearance sale. Most of the furniture that was affected by floodwater was sold during that initial sale.
“Most of the upholstery is gone,” Connie Burns said.
However, Schwanke and Burns do not want to risk having to go through such a calamity again, hence the closing.
After declaring their intent to close, Burns said they have four months before it must close as Minnesota law regulates how long a going-out-of-business sale can be conducted.
“The clock started ticking last Friday,” Burns said.
Signs hanging throughout the store exclaim sales and deals on everything in the store.
“We had to bring in new furniture for the sale,” Burns said, because so much had been sold during the flood clearance sale.
The family is sad to see the store close. S&F Furniture has been a Willmar business staple since 1968.
“We started with just one room,” Burns said.
The furniture store has been part of Burns’ life for almost as long as she can remember.
“I’ve been working here since I was 5,” Burns said.
“We’ve been partners a long time,” Schwanke added.
Throughout the years, Schwanke has enjoyed going to furniture markets across the country, to find new product to bring to her customers. She said she always kept her eyes open for deals and specials to pass those savings on.
“We tried to shop for the customers,” Schwanke said.
She also tried to stock furniture and decor items that fit the style of central Minnesota.
“People always commented on the different things we had,” Schwanke said.
With the business closing, Schwanke hopes to have time to do some extra things, while Burns is looking for future opportunities. Whatever the future holds, Schwanke and Burns will carry happy memories of S&F Furniture with them.
“We’ve enjoyed what we’re doing,” Schwanke said.
While the furniture store is ending its run, the tractor museum and shop located behind the store will remain open.
S&F Furniture will remain open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday until February, or earlier if the product sells out.
Burns and Schwanke are grateful for all of their customers over the years, and will miss them.
“A big thank you for patronizing us,” Schwanke said.
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