Luxe Furniture Company far from its wicker roots

November 1, 2019


It’s been quite a journey for Luxe Furniture Company.
From humble beginnings as Midwest Industries, Phil Squarie took over the family business after it went bankrupt during his parents’ divorce. After completing the Business Administration program at Red River College, he re-opened the business as Wicker World.

“I’ve always been someone that, when I decide to go into something, I go in pretty hard,” Squarie says. “I don’t think I wanted the responsibility, because I was still young and doing a lot of stuff, but the opportunity was either there for the taking or was just going to disappear, so I grabbed it and I ran with it.”

Business was a little slow, and Squarie was quickly discovering that wicker and rattan furniture came with a bit of a reputation of being for a more senior populace. After a conversation with his wife one evening, he came up with the slogan, “It’s not your grandma’s wicker!” and, after combining it with some radio advertising, everything changed.

“I used to go out to the public, and I’d say out of 10 people that I said, ‘Wicker World,’ to, maybe two of them had heard of us,” Squarie says. “After the radio started, out of 10, five would know of us and had been to our store, three had heard of us, and two hadn’t. It was just like, oh my gosh, talk about a switch.

“That slogan… Here we are in 2019, and people still say it to me. Long story short is it worked, and we started getting more and more of the public into the store just to see what we were all about, because I think it sort of resonated with people.”

When one of Squarie’s suppliers in China suggested he bring in a new, plastic wicker product for outdoor use, he was skeptical that it would be successful in a climate like Winnipeg, but was shocked to watch it sell out almost immediately.

“Our business just went, ‘boom.’ It was the first explosion we really had.”

Squarie ended up buying the building that was home to Wicker World, and expanding his space little by little, as well as his product range. Now selling high-end upholstered and leather furniture as well, he knew Wicker World needed to re-brand. But first he expanded the business again to include barbeques, not knowing that would be the catalyst for the creation of the Luxe brand.

After bringing in high-end Napoleon barbeques for sale, Squarie was notified one day that Wicker World had become the largest barbeque retailer in Manitoba.

“I’m sitting there going, ‘So, we’re not even trying, and we’re the biggest barbecue retailer in Manitoba?’ Maybe we need a barbecue store. Calgary’s got two, Edmonton’s got two, Toronto’s got four, Vancouver’s got two, and Winnipeg has nothing.”

In 2016, Squarie opened Luxe Barbeque Company, named after his daughter Luxton.

“The city was starving for it,” Squarie says. “We wanted to sell to everybody. We have $200 barbeques and $18,000 barbeques, and every price point in the middle.”

With two businesses to his name, Squarie solved the problem of Wicker World’s name being outdated by re-branding as Luxe Furniture Company, and just recently opened up a second Luxe Barbeque location in Transcona.

Through it all, the one thing that has stayed the same has been Squarie’s commitment to exceptional customer service, which is what he credits much of his success to.

“Our family was never rich, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. We weren’t poor, but everything was worked for, and it was worked hard for,” Squarie says. “So when you have a value on things like that, I think you have a bit of a different outlook. When I came into this company, I realized how I would want to be treated.

“Anyone can lease a building, put an ‘open’ sign on it, put furniture in it and sell it. Anybody can do it. So if our products aren’t different, and our prices aren’t reasonable, and our service is crap, why would they buy from us? It all starts with service.”

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