Key Technology to take over Courtesy Home Furnishings building


WALLA WALLA - Courtesy Home Furnishings is liquidating its inventory in the first step of a major operations rearrangement at the Poplar Street building.

The nearly 30-year-old furniture business will close its doors in the next two months, and the space will be leased to neighboring Key Technology Inc. for expansion of that company's operations, said Courtesy owner Ross Dowdy.

A liquidation sale begins today at the more than 31,000-square-foot store, 1396 W. Poplar St. Dowdy said the sale will not run more than 60 days.

Key Technology will take over the building Dec. 15 to begin what is expected to be months of preparation for its move into the facility.

The transition closes a chapter for the Walla Walla furniture store while starting another one for Key.

Dowdy co-founded Courtesy Home Furnishings in Pendleton in 1982 with two other partners. The trio divided its stores into three different groups with each one taking ownership of different stores. The three continued to work together buying inventory to supply their stores.

The Walla Walla store has operated on Poplar Street since 2006, when Dowdy and his wife Cheryl constructed their vision of the ultimate furniture store. They had previously operated on Rose Street.

Though only in that space a few years, Dowdy said a variety of factors led to the decision to partner with Key.

"Mainly it was kind of an opportune time," he said. "Key needed a facility."

He continues to operate a Courtesy store in Clarkston, as well. So the closure will not leave him with an empty plate, he said.

For Key Technology, the multi-year lease will help the company move ahead with expansion plans, Chief Executive Officer David Camp said this morning.

The manufacturing firm had planned to build new global headquarters on land across from its Avery Street location and a short walk from the Courtesy site. But archaeological findings in 2008 at the 4.2-acre property owned by the Port of Walla Walla postponed construction. When the recession hit, the company pulled back on its plans to build.

Camp said this morning he doesn't have a firm estimate of how long it will take to prepare the Courtesy building or what the cost will be.

The Courtesy space will house the company's pharmaceutical division currently on Isaacs Avenue. It will also become a customer-visit site for demonstration laboratories and equipment setups with sales and marketing employees stationed there, he said.

"We'll have multiple production lines set up there so that customers feel very welcomed to come in and see Key," Camp said.

"It really gives us a chance to do something that we've been trying to do for some time, which is present ourselves to the customers better than we feel we do now."

The lease includes a provision that may allow Key to purchase the building in the future. With a property line adjacent to Key's existing operation, Camp said the property may be ripe for construction of a covered walkway to adjoin the spaces.

Talks are also taking place about an environmental-condition facility that would allow demonstrations of the automated inspection equipment in different conditions. For instance, customers who sort baby carrots or broccoli do so in near-freezing temperatures, Camp said. A demonstration area with temperature control would allow customers to see the equipment as it would be used in their facilities.

If the company continues to prosper, Camp said there may be an opportunity to pursue construction of the original building that was slated just a couple of years ago for administrative offices.

"It would be nice to be able to use those drawings," he said.


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