When Gene and Florence Norriss built a new building for Custom House Furniture on Napa’s north side in 1968, locals told the couple they wouldn’t make it, according to son-in-law and current owner, Warren Magee.
“There was very little in north Napa at that time,” Magee said. “But the folks knew the city couldn’t really expand east or west, and was unlikely to go south, so it had to grow north eventually.”
Decades later, the local institution founded in 1958 remains a thriving family-owned and operated business.
“When I joined the business in 1970,” Magee said, “there were four or five local furniture stores in Napa, and we’re the only one left.”
Magee, who operates the store with the original owners’ daughter, Barbara, has welcomed the couple’s son Michael to the business. “We’ve always wanted to keep this a family business,” he said.
“We deal in medium- to higher-end product lines,” said Magee. “The advantage of carrying quality furniture is you’re going to have less trouble with it over time. We don’t carry the brands where you are likely to have issues right after you buy it. We’ve discontinued several brands for that reason.”
“Most furniture will have warranties, but if you do have issues with anything, we go back to the factory for you. You don’t have to get involved with returns and such. I’m the factory’s customer, and you are buying from me. Factories don’t want to deal with individual customers, so we take care of that. We always treat our customers the way we want to be treated,” Magee said.
But the store, located at 706 Trancas St., does more than sell furniture. It also sells custom draperies, blinds, shades, shutters, upholstery, pillows, bed ensembles, headboards and laminate or hardwood flooring.
“We do a tremendous amount of window coverings,” Magee said; “everything from shutters to drapes or swags, and we’ll install them for you. Many come with remotes these days, and you can even open or close your drapes remotely if you’re not home.”
Magee says you don’t have to go to a chain or big-box store to find value.
“We never sell anything at a full retail markup and try to always give the customer a better product at a lower price. That’s the way we’ve always done it,” he said. “We’re noticing with the advent of a lot of cheaper furniture stores that young people seem to have a little more of a disposable mentality. They’ll buy it, use it for a couple of years, and when it wears out they’ll go get another one.”
Magee said that’s not the kind of furniture Custom House carries.
The store will also visit your home and make interior design recommendations. “My wife, Barbara, does design consulting and helps with everything from color choices to space planning,” Magee said.
Magee said that Napa is still a small town and the store is largely dependent on repeat business and referrals from loyal customers.
“I think a store like ours is going to do pretty well in the years ahead,” he said, “because our emphasis is doing a nice job for our customers and keeping them happy.”
Although he doesn’t completely rule out opening another location in Napa, he said Custom House is never going to be a multi-store chain because that’s not who they want to be.
“Our business used to be primarily repeat customers,” Magee said, “but lately there have been a lot of new people moving to the Valley that we’ve helped. In fact, we’ve had several customers recently who moved out here from the East Coast who sold their homes as is, including the furniture, and came here needing to start over … It makes a lot of sense because it’s expensive to move a whole house full of furniture all the way across the country.”
While the store maintains a website, Magee said they are not comfortable selling furniture sight unseen over the Internet.
“People need to come in and experience the product themselves for such an important purchase,” he said, adding that you don’t have to purchase the furniture on the floor like some store; you can special order different colors and features based on what you see at Custom House.
“We help people update a lot, where they’ve had furniture for 25 years and it’s time for something new,” Magee said. “We help everyone from those who know exactly what they’re looking for, and also people who have no idea.”
Magee also pointed out the store doesn’t have commission salespeople, so you can come in and take your time browsing without pressure.
“If you just want to come in and look around, we won’t chase you all over the store,” he said.
“We welcome new customers,” Magee said, “but we’re still here because we know how important it is to take care of the customers we have.”