Mark Thomas Home reopening store at former Pedersen’s Furniture downtown Santa Rosa site

A bright red Peterbilt truck slowly backed up on Orchard Street Tuesday morning until the rear-end of its trailer reached the warehouse entrance of the old Pedersen’s Furniture store in downtown Santa Rosa.

Former Pedersen’s staff began unloading large cardboard boxes of furniture, carrying them into the warehouse that’s been mostly empty since March, when the 127-year-old family-owned store closed.

When the store and interior design showroom and warehouse reopens on May 11, the furniture retailer will carry the name of the new business, Mark Thomas Home.

That business, formerly Eastern - The Furniture Company, is a 62-year-old home furnishings business from Santa Clara that was rebranded to mark its foray into the North Coast market, co-owner Mark Lasecke said. Though the name on the 5th Street showroom window will change, much will remain the same, including keeping many of Pedersen’s staff, Lasecke said.

“That’s what made it advantageous for us,” he said. “They’re trained professionals who know the local consumer and the area.”

Reopening the Santa Rosa furniture store is a $5 million investment over a 20-month period for the new owners, a sum that includes buying merchandise, the cost of the lease agreement and payroll for staff, which will include many of Pedersen’s former employees.

As the boxes of furniture were unloaded Tuesday, John Pedersen, Pedersen’s former warehouse manager, logged each box brought into the cavernous warehouse as the high-end furniture store’s new co-owner Bryan Lasecke prepared bar code stickers for each piece.

The 35-year-old Pedersen is helping Lasecke and his brother, Mark, with a transition they hope will keep North Coast residents coming to the downtown landmark for many more years.

“The community needs a good furniture store, especially after the fire - we’ve been so freaking busy,” Pedersen said.

Mark Lasecke said he’s known Pedersen’s Furniture Co. co-owner Ken Pedersen for years and used to serve with him on the board of the national Home Furnishings Association. When he found out the Pedersens had decided to close their longtime family business, Lasecke said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

“Santa Rosa is a buy-local environment,” he said.

Gary and Tammy Saal, whose rebuilt home on Lakepointe Circle in Fountaingrove is nearing completion, said they’re excited to see what the Lasecke brothers will have on display in their Santa Rosa showroom when it opens next month.

The Saals lost everything in the 2017 Tubbs fire, including unique furniture pieces bought at Pedersen’s. They’ve rebuilt their home of 15 years and need to furnish 4,300 square feet of living space.

Gary Saal said he and his wife have gotten the new house close to 25% furnished with the help of Wine Country Fine Furniture in Petaluma. After they learned Mark Thomas Home would be replacing the Pedersen’s store, the couple decided to drive down to Santa Clara to see the retailer’s furniture.

“We hit it off and a quick friendship formed,” Saal said of Mark Lasecke. “We like what he’s doing and the furniture he’s bringing in.”

Much like Pedersen’s, Lasecke’s business in Santa Clara has resisted gravitating toward lower-quality furniture in order to become more competitive on price.

Lasecke said Eastern - The Furniture Company was started in the Santa Clara Valley in 1957 by his grandfather, Wisconsin native Frank Lasecke and his wife, Sandie. Frank Lasecke moved to California after he got out of the U.S. Navy in 1947 and worked for 10 years as a furniture manufacturer’s representative before opening Eastern as a wholesale showroom. The name was a nod to quality furniture made in the Eastern United States.

Lasecke said Mark Thomas Home in Santa Rosa will focus on interior design services. And the company has developed an online platform that simplifies the difficult and time-consuming task of searching the inventories of global suppliers.

He said the new website will feature a lifestyle approach to design living spaces that allows customers to search multiple furniture vendors by criteria, including size, color, category and price, among others.

“This will greatly enhance the consumer’s journey through the search and design process with hundreds of our vendors,” Lasecke said.

Lasecke said the 5th Street store will sell American-made furniture by Stickley, American Leather, Gat Creek, Borkholder, Bradington-Young, Century Funiture and others. He said the showroom also will offer a number of furniture lines that are new to the former Pedersen’s showroom or have not been offered in a long time, as well as “old favorites” like Stressless by Ekornes, Eastern Accents, Feizy Rug and Flexsteel.

The move into Sonoma County represents a major expansion for the South Bay company, which over the years has catered to many high-tech executives and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Lasecke said Mark Thomas Home will expand Pedersen’s previous offerings by adding and bolstering departments, including patio and outdoors, mattresses and hard window treatments. He said he’s bringing back former employees to manage specific departments.

Jim Navas, 51 - Pedersen’s former operations manager, in-home service manager and all-around building maintenance guy - spent 30 years in the 5th Street warehouse before it closed in March. This week, he was again unloading furniture with a hand truck.

Navas, who lives off West College Avenue, said he has no regrets because Pederson’s was a great place to work. He said his favorite part of the job was serving customers.

“I love turning a negative into a positive, as far as customer services go,” he said, taking a break from unloading boxes. “I don’t call them complaints. I call them concerns.”

Navas said his son, Aaron, who started at Pedersen’s as a temporary hire four years ago, is also returning as a warehouse manager.

Mark and Bryan Lasecke’s excitement is palpable. Part of the reason, they said, is the warm reception they’ve received in Santa Rosa.

“The people we’ve met have been so open and friendly and grateful,” Mark Lasecke said. “I’ve never felt so warm and welcome to an area we’re not even in yet.”

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