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Blu Dot picked Knox and McKinney to be near furniture competitors

Blu Dot, a Minneapolis-based furniture store, delayed a Dallas debut until it could get a spot in the Knox Street area.

Furniture shopping is an infrequent purchase, and people shopping for the perfect sofa, chair or entire room are going to head to where they can see a lot of it, said John Christakos, Blu Dot co-founder and CEO.

“It’s not like the shopping experience where you walk past an interesting store, a bookstore, say, and go in and buy something,” he said.

Furniture shopping has been a legacy for Knox Street since locally owned Weir’s opened there in 1948. This year it moved into a new two-level ,28,000-square-foot store with a office tower above it.

The Knox shopping district is also adding more restaurants and fashion retailers. A high-rise development is in the works for south of Knox along Travis Street and the Katy Trail.

Knox started earning its current hip and walkable vibe when Apple put one of its first U.S. stores there in 2003. But Knox and its intersecting streets of McKinney, Cole and Travis are still attracting new furniture stores. Last year’s addition of RH Gallery’s three-level, 70,000-square-foot store with a rooftop restaurant and wine bar was the biggest opening.

“We love to be around our competitors, and it’s great for shoppers to park and walk to our store, or to CB2 or Room & Board,” Christakos said. “If you like our furniture, you’ll buy from us, but there’s enough business to go around.”

Furniture stores like to cluster, but not all major cities have destination streets. Los Angeles has Beverly and North Robertson boulevards, he said, but Boston really doesn’t have one.

Dallas also has the Design District, which mostly has wholesale showrooms. While Blu Dot does a lot of business with interior designers, “we favor locating in consumer-friendly areas,” Christakos said.

Blu Dot was founded in 1997 by three college friends with $50,000. They were two architects and a sculptor who wanted to design furniture. Their first store opened in New York in 2008 as the Great Recession was beginning, and that actually worked out, he said. “We didn’t know anything about retail. We were furniture designers.”

Blu Dot is located at 4447 McKinney Avenue and Natuzzi Italia Dallas is at 4441 McKinney. The two buildings share the southwest corner of McKinney and Armstrong avenues. (Robert Tsai)

Blu Dot now has 11 stores in the U.S., including one in Austin, as well as two in Mexico and one in Australia.

Dallas architects Far+Dang created the interior space for Blu-Dot with oak structures that act as floating screens to set off displayed vignettes. The store has a patio area for Blu Dot’s collection of outdoor furniture. About one-third of Blu Dot’s furniture is made in the U.S., and similar amounts come from Europe and Asia.

Dallas-based neighbor

Blu Dot’s 9,600-square-foot store shares a corner with Natuzzi Italia Dallas’ 6,375-square-foot store, which opened last year and is owned by Dallas-based Cantoni.

Both buildings are new, and they’re at the southwest corner of McKinney and Armstrong avenues.

Natuzzi Italia Dallas opened in September 2021.
Natuzzi Italia Dallas opened in September 2021.(Natuzzi Italia Dallas)

The made-in-Italy Natuzzi brand had been sold inside Cantoni’s Dallas showroom, but now the free-standing store stocks a full range of furniture and is staffed with designers who can assist with special orders for upholstery and finishes, said Stuart Tinsley, Cantoni’s vice president of marketing.

Cantoni, which was founded in Dallas in 1984 and sells modern design furniture, has worked with Natuzzi Italia since 2012. Cantoni has five other stores in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Irvine, Calif., and Atlanta. It has two showrooms to the trade in the Dallas Design District and Houston Decorative Center.

Knox Street’s furniture brands

The list of Knox Street area furniture stores is impressive: Blu Dot, CB2, Crate & Barrel, Duxiana, Grange Hall, Herman Miller, Interior Define, Lovesac, Mattress Firm, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Natuzzi Italia Dallas, OKA, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, RH, Room & Board, Serena & Lily, Summer Classics, The Shade Store and Weir’s Furniture. Bassett Furniture recently moved out of a more than 10,000-square-foot building just south of Knox at 4528 McKinney, but there’s no word on who’s moving in.

Knox Street’s Anthropologie sells home decor. Kitchen and cooking retailer Sur La Table is in the district on Cole Avenue, and there’s a Kohler bath and kitchen showroom store on McKinney just north of Knox that’s open to the public.

If there’s a recession next year, Christakos said, “We’ll feel it, but we may benefit from higher-income folks moving down into our price zone.”

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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