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GRANITE FURNITURE LAUNCHES GRAND OPENING IN LAYTON

Granite Furniture cut the ribbon and launched a grand opening week for its newest store here Thursday morning, the fourth addition to the 81-year-old Utah chain and its second new store in three years.

The 93,000-square-foot store has been in planning and construction for two years "but has been on their minds for 20 years," said Craig Johnson, marketing director."They" are John Richards Sr., chief executive officer, and his brother, Stephen C. Richards, president, who contend Granite has furnished more homes in the Intermountain West than any other retailer with daily deliveries through much of the state and weekly to Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

Sales and earnings for the chain are kept confidential, but the Richards' said the store their father, Willard Richards, founded in 1910 had record sales growth last year.

"As far as we're concerned, the future has never looked brighter," said John Richards Sr., adding that he pays no attention to the "media reports of doom and gloom."

"We encourage our people not to pay attention to naysayers," said John Richards Sr. "Instead, we concentrate on the things we can control."

Stephen Richards agreed: "That way, we can deliver value, something that's never gone out of style," he said.

Although the two brothers are well past retirement age, they still put in 50-60 hour work weeks, said Johnson.

The new store is the northernmost in the Granite chain and the first in Davis County. It is an all-new facility built on a formerly vacant lot backing I-15 between a Shopko and a Reams and near a new Wal-Mart. "It's a fast-growing retail area, a very high traffic area," said Johnson. He said the store will draw customers from Davis and Weber counties as well as southern Idaho and parts of Wyoming.

"We're excited to be in Layton," said John Richards Sr. "It will better allow us to serve our customers in Northern Utah. Today's family doesn't have the time or inclination to drive any further than necessary to make a major purchase. We feel that if we can provide the selection, quality, price and service that Northern Utah is looking for, we'll do very well."

The new store opened for business two weeks ago with 60 new employees joining the 300 already employed by the chain. Johnson said the company received 700 applications for jobs in the store, interviewed 250 and hired 60. "We have a really excellent group of new employees," he said, adding that all but a few of them live in Davis County.

The original Granite Furniture in Sugar House, which remains the flagship store and home office, is currently undergoing some remodeling and renovation. The West Jordan store opened in 1989 - following a complete remodeling and doubling in size of the Provo store. The new Layton store is second in size only to the Sugar House facility.

For now, no further new Granite Furniture stores are planned. "Yes, we like to grow, but not if it means acquiring large amounts of debt to do so," said Stephen Richards. "Debt costs have to be handed along to the customer, so we pay as we go."