John Erdos Home to close, holds final sale

Founder of furniture store has a new job in the United States and will close his store here

The River Valley showroom (above) of John Erdos Home will have a sale on May 23 and 24 to sell the remaining pieces in the store.
The River Valley showroom (above) of John Erdos Home will have a sale on May 23 and 24 to sell the remaining pieces in the store. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JOHN ERDOS
The River Valley showroom (above) of John Erdos Home will have a sale on May 23 and 24 to sell the remaining pieces in the store. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JOHN ERDOS

After settling down and doing business in Singapore for 23 years, furniture store owner John Erdos is calling it a day.

As he is returning to the United States, the New York-born Mr Erdos, 51, who made his name selling designer Asian home decor, in particular teak pieces, will have his last hurrah with a furniture sale.

On May 23 and 24, he will open his River Valley Road store, John Erdos Home, for the last time to sell the remaining pieces of furniture, following weeks of knocked-down prices.

"I was supposed to close the store for good after the final sale about three weeks ago, but there're some pieces left. So we're going to do an encore sale."

But he is not leaving the furniture scene for good. Instead, the Singapore permanent resident is moving to Dallas, Texas, to become chief executive officer of IO Metro, a speciality lifestyle store selling modern art, home decor and accessories.

IO Metro, which has 15 stores across the US and is owned by a private equity fund, hired him to rebrand its stores. He will also oversee expansion plans, which include opening another 15 stores in the next two to five years and redesigning the look of the outlets.

Calling it an "incredible opportunity", Mr Erdos, who got married in New York in December last year, says: "It would be crazy to pass up this opportunity. They love what I've done with the store in Singapore and want me to duplicate that in America. It lets me do what I'm passionate about on a much larger scale."

As much as he wanted to continue doing business here and to open more stores, he says: "The market is not very big and the cost of rental is quite high. To expand without financial backing would be tough."

The self-taught designer came to Singapore in 1991 as the vice-president of American fashion company J Crew's Far East Operations.

But he caught the interior decorating bug when he did up his Tanglin Park apartment then. In particular, he became enamoured of the stylish wooden furniture made in Indonesia.

He returned from a furniture-buying trip in Yogyakarta with more pieces than he could furnish his apartment with and ended up holding weekend sales at his home. It made his name as the go-to guy for unique pieces, in particular, for wood and Asian-styled furniture.

He set up his first store, John Erdos Home, in a shophouse in Bukit Pasoh. He left J Crew to focus on the business.

Over the years, the store grew. From a 11,000 sq ft showroom in Kim Yam Road, he moved to a 30,000 sq ft compound in Dempsey, which included a John Erdos Home store - it sold furniture, rugs, lighting and home accessories - a cafe and art gallery John Erdos Art.

After four years there and finding the crowd in Dempsey waning, he moved to his current 4,000 sq ft premises in River Valley Road.

Along the way, he also opened stores under the Jamson Whyte label in New York, San Francisco and Miami - they closed in 2001 as Mr Erdos wanted to concentrate on furniture design - and earned famous fans such as Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani and actress Julia Roberts.

He would take his sketches to his workshops in Indonesia to create furniture with a tropical yet stylish Asian vibe.

But despite earning a customer base here, he is ready for a new challenge, which is why he accepted IO Metro's offer readily. And he is looking to bring the same John Erdos flavour to his new posting, which he started on March 1.

He has returned to Singapore a few times since - he speaks to Life! during one such trip - to wrap up the business here.

Another push factor: His partner Louis Koay, 31, suggested living somewhere else for a while. The Ipoh-born Mr Koay, who has a background in mechanical engineering, will join him at IO Metro as a product manager for wood furniture. The duo started Ark Haus, a contemporary furniture line, in 2013.

Mr Erdos dismisses rumours that John Erdos Home is closing due to poor sales or losses. "Like with all businesses, you have good and bad years. Sure, I would have liked to make more money, but it's been a good 23-year run," he says.

He calls his move "bittersweet", but says: "It's been such a wonderful experience finding this side of me - that I could design furniture myself - I got that education and experience in Singapore. That's priceless."

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