By Richard Mundy
For Hometown News
Many young boys yearn to become a policeman, a cowboy or a fireman.
But while most are simply the dreams of youth, Leon Axley had real-life models for his dream. "I wanted to be a fireman," he said. "My Grandfather was a fire chief ... and my Dad was a Forest Ranger (read Smokey the Bear). He put out fires in the forest."
But the fire department's loss was a gain for the community. "When I was 13 my Mom got me a job refinishing pianos. That was my first actual real job and I loved it."
The taking apart, making it look new and putting it back together struck a "chord" (pardon the pun) with young Leon.
"Everything has to go back the way it was; you have to mark each part, each screw ... and I loved being meticulous," he said.
His store, Furniture & More, shows it. Everything is placed just so, almost like a furniture magazine ad and the look is most pleasing.
Mr. Axley freely gives credit to his mother-in-law and wife for helping out a great deal with the placements. You feel almost at home when you walk in and are immediately impressed with the mixture of fine furniture, home décor pieces as well as many framed pictures, prints and original paintings. They even go so far as placing some art in the restroom to utilize all the wall space available. It's also obvious the pricing does not always match the item; many items seemed to be quite a bargain, a result of working with his clients and his knowledge of the market.
The idea to open a furniture consignment shop came about because he and his wife and in-laws are all bargain shoppers, yard sale and thrift store visitors. "We love it. You never know what you're going to find," he said.
One of the great inspirations of his life was his Mom. "She owned her own business," he said. "She started a pest control business from the ground up. So I learned from her that if you work hard you are rewarded and if you don't, you aren't."
It has instilled in him his drive and passion for the business he has started. He believes in putting 130 percent into what he does and that's something he says he learned from his Mom. He said he couldn't "ask for a better role model" and his dad is the same way. He learned about fixing things from his dad.
"I'm more of a people person -- I like to talk to people. And after years of doing this I thought, I think I could do this (have a consignment store) as a business, just a little higher end.
He's only been open about five months and already is experiencing repeat customers.
Mr. Axley is a good listener. He respects the people that bring him items that mean a lot to them -- whether they are parting with it due to economic conditions or just feel it's time for someone else to enjoy having the piece. He takes time to understand their feelings, and then can share with potential buyers the history of the item, which makes it more than a piece on the showroom floor with a price tag.
As a consignment shop, he takes the items in a "partnership" with the owners, giving him freedom to choose the best marketplace for each item, even utilizing eBay and CraigsList. "I'd say about 80 percent of the shop is consigned," Mr. Axley said.
A particular experience he was not expecting was the aspect of pick-up and delivery of items. It is a service that not all shops provide and, with his experience with pianos, he knows just how to care for them as they can be damaged quite easily.
To get new customers he has advertised heavily, with particular emphasis on Hometown News. "They also search for us online to our website as well as Facebook," he said.
Before opening, Mr. Axley did about a year's worth of investigation, using the web, people in the business and other resources before deciding to open his own store. His sister-in-law, Katie, is his only employee so far, although sometimes his dad and another relative help with the deliveries. Down the road he envisions a larger shop, one that can also house a repair and restoration shop.
He shared that, "I don't expect to get rich doing this and so far I can't complain at all. I would like to just be comfortable. I really get an enjoyment out of helping people."
Furniture And More Consignment Store is at 5571 S. Ridgewood Ave., Port Orange. For information, call (386)-310-8727 or go online to FurnitureAndMoreFL.com.