Classic Casual focuses on outdoor furniture

Annemarie Mannion, September 1, 2008

Colorful adirondack chairs
(Above) Colorful adirondack chairs create a focal point at the store's front window.

When John Adolf purchased Classic Casual Furniture in Clarendon Hills, Ill., he had an idea of building a funeral home on a site next to the store. His plan was eventually replaced by outdoor living.

For various reasons, the funeral home never materialized and a garden center on the adjacent site no longer exists. But the outdoor furniture store Adolf purchased in 1982 continues to flourish. It is now run by Adolf's son, Bernie, who got into the business after graduating from college.

One of the store's most successful events, a spring tent sale, is held on a concrete pad that had been part of the garden center. This outdoor area also is furnished with a stone pergola, an outdoor grill, a fire pit and is landscaped with towering trees and bushes.

Bernie Adolf said his four-person sales staff often invites customers to this space to see how the furniture they are considering will look in their homes.

“We're trying to give them ideas of what they can do with their homes,” Adolf said. “It gives them a different perspective.”

The two-story store has floor-to-ceiling glass windows and two on-site warehouses. The store is a bright, welcoming place with various furniture lines including Tropitone, Lloyd/Flanders, Poly-Wood, Gloster and Brown Jordan.

A row of brightly colored adirondack-style chairs from Poly-Wood recently lined the front window, representing a trend toward vibrant hues in patio furniture.

Bernie Adolph
Bernie Adolph

Adolf said the chairs, in colors of red, blue and orange, have been popular among customers who own homes that call for a more casual, fun feel.

“A lot of people with summer homes like it,” he said. “You can power wash it and it won't chip.” The furniture, which is partially made from recycled milk cartons, also appeals to customers who are environmentally conscious.

Still, brown and black continue to be the store's best-selling colors.

Other trends he sees are seating with thick cushions and chairs that swivel or bounce.

“It's a comforting thing to be able to bounce or move (in a chair),” Adolf said.

In the tight economy, Adolph said the tent sale has become one of the store's best advertisements.

People who come to the tent sale for discounted furniture that the store no longer carries often end up buying from current lines because they want to special order finishes or fabric colors.

Due to its longevity and emphasis on customer service, repeat business is a big factor at the store.

“We've got people who bought things 15 years ago who come in to replace it or they are giving it to their children and want something new. Or, their children are coming in to buy,” Adolf said.

He described the store's customer service “as white glove service. We deliver the furniture blanket wrapped. We even take their old stuff away.”

He charges a minimum fee of $75 for delivery, but said most customers are willing to pay it.

“People who have the income want the hassle factor taken out,” he said.

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