Walker's Furniture acquires Wilcox store in M-F

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- Wilcox Furniture will close this summer after operating in the region for more than six decades and reopen as a Walker's Furniture outlet.

Owners of Wilcox announced in April they will liquidate about $2.5 million in inventory at their five Umatilla County stores. An exact closure date depends on how quickly the inventory goes, said John Wilcox, president of the family-owned operation.

He said most of the 70 people employed at the company's stores in Hermiston, Pendleton and at Stateline in Milton-Freewater will be able to carry on under the new operators.

Financial terms of the changeover were not disclosed in the announcement.

Wilcox said in an interview that he was unsure what the Walker's expansion might mean for that company's Walla Walla store at 410 Ash St.

The Spokane Valley, Wash.,-based Walker's has seven stores in Washington and North Idaho, including Walla Walla's.

According to a report in the Spokane Journal of Business, Walker's plans to open outlets in the Wilcox spaces by September.

Wilcox emphasized the closure was a personal decision he and brothers Alan and Bruce made collectively.

"We're going out because we want to. Not because we had to," he said. "The decision truly had nothing to do with finances."

The Wilcox brothers said they're ready to pursue new opportunities after decades each working for the company.

The business that started in 1951 by Charles Wilcox, the Wilcox's uncle, and was taken over in 1959 by their parents, Les and Joyce Wilcox, began as a one-store operation in Hermiston with eight employees.

The company added a clearance store in Hermiston in the 1970s. It opened a Wilcox in Pendleton in 1985. Four years after that the Milton-Freewater store opened on Highway 11. In 1996 a clearance store opened next to the original.

Walker's started in 1980. It has showrooms in Spokane, the Spokane Valley, Kennewick, East Wenatchee, Yakima, Walla Walla and Coeur d'Alene. After this summer, it will add three Oregon cities to that list.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321 or vickihillhouse@wwub.com

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