The Showroom is Open

Like Other Retailers, Victoria’s Armoire Had to Tough Out the Shutdown. Now Customers Are Coming Back

When the worsening coronavirus pandemic forced Anna and Eddie Fuentes to close their Coral Gables furniture store in March, they thought the quarantine lockdown might last a couple of weeks. Instead, it lasted more than two months. 

“This has hit harder than the 2008 recession, or any of the other difficulties we’ve faced,” says Anna, speaking of Victoria’s Armoire, the business the couple opened in 1991 on Ponce de Leon Boulevard just south of Bird Road. “Thank God we have been in the game a long time, and have an established clientele,” she says. “And we are conservative, with a healthy cash flow to bring in goods.”

Still, as the business reopened in late May, it was done so “cautiously,” Anna says, with a reduced staff, an option for customers to shop by private appointment, and an online presence that needed beefing up. “When operating in a brick and mortar mentality, you can’t switch gears immediately,” she says. “But we have a huge following and that has helped a lot.” Indeed, response to the store’s reopening was surprisingly strong. “It seems there is a pent-up demand,” says Anna. “The first week we were expecting a trickle. But we had more customers than we could handle.”

The Showroom is open

While that may be a good problem to have in most scenarios, it is not the best in a COVID environment that requires masks and social distancing. So far, however, with two large showrooms, they have not had to limit the number of customers perusing the store at any given time (and they have a supply of masks for any customers who forget). Once inside, “people do their own social distancing,” says Anna.

Those who do shop in person have a variety of home furnishings to choose from, including cabinets, coffee tables, sofas, lamps, benches, baskets, mirrors, ottomans, rugs, desks, chairs, etc., all with their hallmark of being unconventional yet elegant – or, as they brand their design sensibilities, “At the Crossroad of Originality and Sophistication.” 

And, these days, there is more product than ever. Because the store must pre-pay for the goods it imports, with most coming from Indonesia and Vietnam, shipments continued throughout the quarantine. The store’s warehouse is now packed with 14 containers of furnishings.

From its beginnings in a small 800-square foot showroom on the second floor of its building on Ponce, Victoria’s Armoire has spread out to include a complex of showrooms totaling more than 20,000 square feet in two separate buildings. Now, after nearly 30 years in business, and with a loyal customer base, the store seems poised to survive. But the pandemic has served as a cautionary tale.

“You can never really count on anything for certain, and that’s scary for everyone,” says Anna. “We don’t have a cure [for coronavirus] right now, and I worry about a second wave. It is hard to make plans. Will we have to shut down again?”

Regardless, the pandemic has been a learning experience. “One lesson is to be conservative,” she says. “Have a cash reserve at all times.”

Victoria’s Armoire
4077 Ponce de Leon Blvd