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Century Furniture owner Sam Guedoir talks about his passion — furniture — at his downtown Manteca store that is now in its 22nd year.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED May 19, 2017 1:20 a.m.

Downtown Manteca is a good place to do business.
Just ask Sam Guedoir.
Century Furniture — Guedoir’s business — has been flourishing for 22 years on the southwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.
It opened in 1995. It was one of the years where people were writing downtown’s obituary. Wal-Mart had been open for four years. Long-time retailers unable or unwilling to adapt to changing tastes were closing shop. Vacant buildings were everywhere. The burned out shell of the El Rey Theatre was less than a half a block away towering over the heart of the city like cancerous blight.
The faults of downtown listed by the doomsday crowd ran the gamut from limited parking meaning there were no massive parking lots like at strip centers and a tired ambiance to not being able to compete with national retailers.
The building Guedoir selected had two failed attempts at starting a business after the long-time Brown-Mahin Department Store had closed.
Guedoir, who owned a business in Santa Rosa, had brought his family to the Manteca Waterslides. Before going there, though, he wanted to see downtown.
“You can get a feel for a city by seeing its downtown,” Guedoir said. “When we have visitors that’s what they ask to see — downtown.”
Guedoir was stunned when he passed the intersection of Yosemite and Main and saw the vacant Brown-Mahin building at what was — and still is — the city’s most high profile intersection. He stopped to take a peek in the glass windows.

He opened downtown
in 1995 when Manteca
had 45,000 residents
The family headed to the waterslides but he couldn’t get his mind off the building or the fact Manteca was a growing city with 45,000 residents in 1995.
So after they were through at the waterslides, he told his wife he wanted to look at the building again. He found a sign with a number for information saying to contact Joe Jacobs. It was on a Sunday. When Guedoir was told the terms, he was stunned. Not because it was too high but the opposite. The location, price, and community growth were ideal.  As a businessman he couldn’t resist.
Where others in 1995 saw doom and gloom, Guedoir viewed it as a bonanza to mine and develop.
He convinced his wife to make the move.
Manteca is now his home. The community and the opportunities downtown afforded have allowed him to send two sons through college and into successful careers with a third now hitting the books at a university.
Century Furniture is not alone. There is a healthy list of success stories downtown where businesses, banks, and services have been effectively meeting customer needs that in turn has built their success for more than 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years. And because of what downtown offers — central location on heavily trafficked streets, parking opportunities, and the solid drawing power of a community gathering place that has yet to be fully developed, plus low overhead compared to newer retail centers — to succeed all they have had to do is offer the right product with personalized service.
From where Guedoir stands, it’s tough not to see downtown hitting an even more lucrative stride as a district to conduct business and to build the community by stepping up dining and entertaining operations. That is underscored by the fact Manteca at 77,000 residents today is on target  to hit 125,700 residents by 2040 with the two key streets  — Main and Yosemite — expected to continue to figure heavily in travel for the daily or at least weekly needs of residents.
He doesn’t fear big box furniture or online retailers. It’s because he’s been driven to not only offer quality products but to listen to customers while educating them on options when it comes to quality and various possibilities of furniture combinations and sizes.
It sounds like a non-brainer until you realize that big box furniture stores don’t really make an effort to educate you on quality and craftsmanship of furniture as they are more content to let you roam. As for online furniture buying, it isn’t as convenient, less expensive, or personalized  as one might think.
“You are going to be sitting on a sofa a lot,” Guedoir said. “When you buy a mattress what do you do? You try it out.”
Saving even $50 with free shipping factored in quickly losses its appeal when it is explained what you are getting.
“United Parcel takes it to your front door, that’s it,” Guedoir noted.
Most furniture — even high quality pieces — need some assembly such as doors on an armoire. Then there is the issue of scratches, damage or imperfections that either you have to live with or repack the furniture and ship it back on your dime. Century Furniture and similar brick and mortar retailers make sure you get furniture placed in your home that you are happy with.
“When you explain that to people they realize saving a few dollars online is not necessarily the best (move),” he said.
Guedoir takes apart sofa cushions, points out drawer construction, and shows customers nuances of best practices for building quality furniture so they have a better grasp of what they are considering buying. He even has examples of lower quality new furniture he keeps on hand so customers can see and feel the differences themselves.
As he explains how to assess furniture quality he speaks with a passion while pointing out little details that most would overlook. Once the design and function are fully explained and demonstrated, Guedoir said customers can make a more informed decision
Over the years Guedoir has modified his offering in his fairly compact store to reflect the changing furniture needs and wants of his clientele. Back in 1995 there was a cross-section of everything you needed to furnish a home. Now his offerings are predominately sofas and living room furniture with a healthy sprinkling of bedroom and dining room selections.
“People are using their living (and family) rooms more and more today,” he said.
His in-store selection allows customers to get a solid idea of every possible combination from configurations down to various arm styles.
And if you think you’ve seen the furniture he offers before, you probably have. The designer for Raymus Homes’ Raceway Collection new home models in south Manteca shopped Century Furniture for the furnishings.

‘Either you believe
(in your business)
or you don’t’
Knowing your product and being passionate about it goes hand in hand with Guedoir’s basic business philosophy.
“Either you believe (in your business) or you don’t,” Guedoir said.
And at the same time you need to cater to your customer needs.
It is why he broke the “never on a Sunday” mindset that ruled downtown retail establishments when he opened in 1995.
“We were the first ones to open on Sunday,” Guedoir noted.
Guedoir added that he was “thankful for his customers and their support over the years.
His investment in Manteca goes beyond simply selling furniture.
Guedoir spent $5,000 to help prep the east facing wall on his store for the Manteca Mural Society’s first and largest mural “Crossroads 1918.”
That investment has paid off with unexpected dividends. Google “Manteca” and on the side of the first search page information pops up about the city with one photo that shows the mural and his store.
“Downtown has a good future,” Guedoir said. “It could be like Sacramento where you close the street (Yosemite Avenue) and turn it into a pedestrian mall.”
Even if that isn’t what eventually happens, Guedoir is confident of one thing  — downtown Manteca is a great location to be in business to serve a growing community.

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