Longtime Baton Rouge merchant Royal Furniture Co. closing in May

    After 71 years in business, locally owned Royal Furniture Co. will be closing its doors at 502 19th St. in late May.

    Owner Mike Tricou, who since 1976 has run the store founded by his father in 1946, says he’s been thinking about closing the family owned business for a while. At age 66, he finally decided it was time.

    “After you’ve done something for 42 years you start wondering when you’re going to do something else,” Tricou says. “The older you get, you start thinking about working six, sometimes seven days a week as a small business owner and what more you’d like to do.”

    Royal, which was known for its zany low-budget ads on local TV, was also known as something of a dinosaur in the retail business. When most merchants began fleeing downtown in the early 1980s for the more affluent commercial corridors in southeast Baton Rouge, Royal stayed in its original location.

    As Tricou told Business Report in 2014, the store still financed its own customer accounts, owned its own building and didn’t use Facebook or social media to help market the inventory it kept onsite in its combined 60,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse space.

    Clinging to those traditions made it difficult for the store to compete, particularly in an era when online retailing has forced even the strongest brick-and-mortar stores to shut down. But the store had a loyal customer base.

    “The internet is sucking the oxygen out of the retail community,” Tricou says. “I have to keep inventory on site and compete with Amazons and Overstock, and they have unlimited numbers. It makes it tough on a small business person.”

    Tricou’s decision to close comes as the area in which Royal Furniture is located, a neighborhood recently rechristened as Downtown East, is beginning to enjoy something of a resurgence. The store is just blocks from several new mixed-income housing developments, including the Elysian, Elysian II and Deville Apartments, and is less than two miles from the Electric Depot mixed-use development that’s currently under construction.

    Tricou says he’s not sure yet what he will do with the building, though he’s glad to see redevelopment in the neighborhood.

    “I have a lot of mixed emotions,” he says. “It was a good run. We hope we’ve been good to the community. The community has been good to us.”  

    The store’s last day in business is Tuesday, May 29.

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