Great Lakes Futon will move to Walker’s Point

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Great Lakes Futon Inc., a landmark business at the north entrance to Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward for 19 years, is moving to Walker’s Point. In the first week of May, Great Lakes Futon will open the doors of its new location at 907 S. First St. in Walker’s Point, said Japh Komassa, owner of the furniture store. The space formerly housed The Red Car Gallery, which closed in November.
Great Lakes Futon was located at 309 N. Water St. from its opening in 1986 until Komassa moved the store across the street to 318 N. Water St. in 2003.
However, the new Water Street location did not have the same visibility, and a decrease in customer traffic and lack of accessible parking convinced Komassa to look for new space, he said.
When Komassa found the available retail space further south on First Street, he saw an opportunity to move the store to an improving neighborhood much like the Third Ward was when he opened the store there.
“In the 1980s, we were the first retail in the Third Ward, and now we are moving to another up-and-coming area,” Komassa said. “We have good visibility, parking and the location is reasonably priced for a retail business.”
The new location puts Great Lakes Futon one block south of National Avenue at the corner of 1st Street and Walker Street. It is a high-traffic area with available parking, and the building has windows that will surround the store and create the high-visibility location Komassa desired.
Great Lakes Futon was originally established in 1979 and in the past has offered natural wood furniture, including platform beds, shelves, tables, chairs, futons, lamps, art and fabric covers for bedding and futon mattresses. The new store will only feature futon furniture, pillows, blankets, mattresses and fabric covers, Komassa said, although the styles and designs are ever-changing.
Komassa is leasing the space from Suzann Campbell, who owns Miller and Campbell Costume Service, a costume store in the adjacent space from the Great Lakes Futon entrance.
Komassa is investing about $8,000 into the 21,000 square-foot space and installing new carpeting, track lighting and fresh paint, in addition to remodeling the wall placement, Komassa said.
Design consultant Nikki Bender of Milwaukee-based Nikki Bender Art is designing the inside of the new location, Komassa said.
“We want to be in a new and exciting growth area and appeal to the condo owners in the area as well as our loyal customers in Bayview and Riverwest,” Komassa said. “We also have a lot of customers in Wauwatosa and the near suburbs.”
The original plan was to have an entirely open retail space, Komassa said, but the building structure prevented the idea because of load-bearing walls.
Instead, customers will see the store selection from the outside windows and upon entering the store will walk through a small entryway that will have a water wall created by Milwaukee-based Spolar Designed Finishes, displaying a crane, the Great Lakes Futon icon, Komassa said.
A room will be dedicated to fabric, where customers will be able to see the color options and feel the different types of fabric, Komassa said.
In conjunction with the new location grand opening, Great Lakes Futon will premier its new line of futon furniture, fabrics and pillows from Canada, Komassa said.
“We are constantly changing,” he said. “Even our futon mattresses are new. We have the traditional stickley and mission style futons along with new contemporary styles. We have new fabrics for covers and pillows.”
The move has gone smoothly for Great Lakes Futon, Komassa said, and the company has had interactions with New World Wine Co., which will open its second location in both the old Great Lakes Futon space at 318 N. Water St. and the retail space in between that space and Starbucks Coffee Co., Komassa said.
PyraMax Bank has leased a 5,000 square-foot space on the south section of the retail space in the Water Street building, said Tim Dodge of Hanson Dodge, Inc., a Milwaukee-based company that is part-owner of the building. Both New World Wine Co. and PyraMax Bank plan to open in June, Dodge said.
“It was a synergistic three-way deal between the owners of New World Wine Co., Hanson Dodge and us,” Komassa said.
New World Wine Co. leased the Great Lakes Futon space at nearly the same time Komassa leased the new location from Miller and Campbell, Komassa said. Graceville LLC owns the building where New World Wine Co. will open, he said.
Komassa was in semi-retirement and held a less active role in the company when the move was decided, he said. The combination of the new location and a departure of Todd Ebirs, vice president of operations, have led Komassa back into a full-time position.
“I am thankful and looking forward to come back to a more active role in this exciting new venture in Walker’s Point,” Komassa said.
April 29, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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Christine McMahon helps leaders develop strategies and improve speed of execution by developing leadership talent, creating alignment between business functions and improving communications and accountability up, down and across a business. She is co-founder of the Leadership Institute and is in partnership with the WMEP. For keynote presentations, executive coaching, sales and leadership training, she can be reached at:

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