The New Naked
Better furniture a block east
by Sally Mitani
Naked Furniture has finally completed its move a block east to its new home across from Arborland. For months, neon-colored signs screamed that a move was imminent and a sale in progress. Now equally loud signage in the new store announces a "huge event" in progress. The huge event is the store's transition from a purveyor of cheap, unfinished pine furniture to one specializing in custom-finished hardwood furniture. Unlike the old dim space, the front showroom is now flooded with natural light and filled with samples of elegant Shaker-like hutches, tables, chairs, and bookcases in maple, elm, and quarter-sawn white oak.
Owner Ron LaFleur says: "I have a gut feeling that things are about to get a lot better in the furniture business. People want solid, good-quality furniture these days. And they don't want to do their own finishing. It's a thankless job, if you do it right."
LaFleur knows how to do it right. He has a furniture finishing operation in Hartland where he custom paints or stains anything he sells. "I'm in that shop at five in the morning when the rooster cocka-doodle-doos, lighting the woodstove." Actually holding the paintbrush himself? "I don't use a paintbrush--I use a sprayer," he counters. He does add that the Amish prefer to do their own custom finishing, and more and more of his inventory is coming from their factories.
LaFleur's Naked Furniture is unrelated to the Royal Oak store of the same name. Once a corporation with fifty-four franchises, Naked Furniture disbanded in 2008, and some of the store owners, like LaFleur, struck off on their own.
He still stocks the back showroom with more inexpensive lines of pine furniture: a pine cube is his best seller at $30. People use it for nightstands, end tables, or bookcases.
Something about the hulking, battered ruggedness of LaFleur suggests a hockey player, which in turn suggests Guy Lafleur (as he spells it), one of history's most famous NHL players. Ron is indeed a relative--Lafleur is his father's first cousin. "Yeah, I skated with him, when I was a kid, at hockey camp," he smiles. "I still see him from time to time."
Naked Furniture, 3570 Washtenaw, 975-9080. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m. nakedfurnitureannarbor.com
[Originally published in May, 2013.]