For generations, the Racana family has been in the business of developing, importing and representing the home and office furniture needs of the Midwest. In the late 1930’s, Richard Racana Sr. entrepreneured what was to evolve in name and product lines many times, but always remain a family run business. Fathers and sons, sharing experience, inspiration, and change over nearly 85 years as the nation and the world experienced its constant metamorphosis.
Richard Racana Sr. began as a salesman for L.C. Smith, selling typewriters throughout the early and mid 30’s, including a well noted company achievement of 800 typewriters in a single sale to Sears and Roebuck. When the L.C. Smith diverted their efforts towards manufacturing arms for WW2, Racana went out on his own selling, repairing and reconditioning typewriters. At this point, as the war continued, customers suggested he expand into office furniture. With a strong desire to deliver complete office environments for his clients, Aurora Steel Products emerged from his home at 3037 N. Albany in Chicago.
The garage became the warehouse, his wife the accountant and his two sons and three daughters made charming junior showroom reps. After a few successful years, and with his wife’s urging, Racana moved to a 7800 sq. ft. store on Irving Park, where he flourished through the early 60’s. It was at this time his son, Richard Racana Jr., joined the team after graduating college and completing several years of military service.
Young Richard had a passion for the family business, and together they expanded the product line into contemporary desks, chairs and filing systems. Richard brought in contract lines such as Knoll International and Herman Miller to compliment the growing and ever changing business, but in 1964 Richard Racana Sr. passed away and the business changed once again.
When neither his younger brother nor his mother desired to continue with the family business, the Racanas sold the Irving Park store and Richard went on to represent several domestic home designer lines such as Guy Chaddock furniture and several high end reproduction lines from California designers as well as fine imported Italian antique reproductions. He then made the decision to create his own family legacy.
In 1969, Richard Racana Jr. & Associates was founded as a small showroom on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart and some additional rented warehouse space a few blocks away. He traveled the five Midwest states and after much success representing several import and domestic lines, he grew to a 5000 sq. foot showroom representing traditional home furnishings. Richard supplied furniture to Spiegel’s, Colby’s, Steinhafel’s, Art Van and Marshal Fields, to name just a few.
Tastes and interior designs continued to evolve as they usually do, and Richard decided to direct more attention toward the imported fine lines, one Italian line in particular called L.J. Newton. Richard traveled to Italy and met the man who would be his partner in a new venture for the next several years.
Rodolfo Brichieri managed the various Italian resources for L.J. Newton and exposed Richard to many of the finest Italian resources available. They became fast friends, purchasing the Alari Italian marble factory together and opening five additional Alari USA warehouses in the United States. Together they created lines of marble top furniture, including dining tables, coffee tables and end tables. Business boomed and Rodolfo introduced Richard to many Italian family run factories and businesses. This only reinforced the value of a family run business to Richard.
After many successful years together, marble began to fall out of fashion and Alari was closed. Due to his success, Richard was able to move from the small rented warehouse and purchase the much larger warehouse on Grand, which is the building they are in to this day. He maintained the showroom in the Merchandise Mart, but now also owned his own 70,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
While the showroom flourished, the warehouse began collecting many fine home pieces that had been returned by retailers due to very minor damage, incorrect colors or the like. So, in the late 80s, he formed European Furniture Warehouse and opened his warehouse doors to the public in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays and all day on Saturdays. While it was off the beaten path, EFW earned quite the reputation as an outlet for the best “deals” on Italian Furniture – their radio tagline was very well known, “European Furniture Warehouse – locationally challenged at 2145 W Grand Avenue.”
It was during this same time that Richard also founded his own catalog business, European Furniture Importers, featuring Mid Century Italian Classics. Both businesses continued successfully into the 90s, when to Richard’s delight, his older son Randy joined the business in 1992, after graduating college. Both sons, Randy and Chris had worked at the warehouse for many summers throughout high school and college. It was their young modern minds that brought the company online in 1995.
Ecommerce was just in its inception, and European Furniture Importers became one of the very first furniture companies to “sell” their products online as EuroFurniture.com. The catalog was “uploaded” and people could browse through collections of fine imported and domestic furniture on the Internet. They still had to call their orders in, but no longer had to visit the showroom to see what was available.
As the business continued to grow, Richard and Randy decided to centralize and closed the Merchandise Mart showroom after more than 30 years. The showroom and corporate offices were moved into the 70,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Grand Avenue. This transition also marked the end of traditional styles and completed the evolution into contemporary home furnishings.
As the turn of the century arrived, so came both great and difficult news for the Racanas. In 2000, younger son Chris joined the EuroFurniture team. After graduating university, he originally went to work for another family at United Audio Centers. After a mere moment’s consideration, he quickly decided it was far smarter putting his efforts towards his family’s business and Richard Racana Jr. finally had the father and sons business he had imagined all these years.
At the same time, China began exporting furniture and the business of affordable Italian reproductions took a huge hit as the Chinese product floods the market at a significantly lower price. The Racana family sat down and decided instead of trying to compete with China on price, which would be impossible, they would compete on quality. They firmly believed that no one could compete with the Italians in style, design and quality. With this decision came the transition from affordable reproductions to higher end originals. The Racanas were united in that they wanted to sell furniture they loved, believed in and would happily buy for their own homes.
Italian contemporary was at the forefront. It was an ever changing and difficult style to copy and EuroFurniture modernized the homes of the Midwest. In line with this modernization and unbeknownst to their father, the Racana boys up and decided to spend nearly $30,000 on their first ecommerce website in 2002. Thoroughly shocked, Richard Racana stated there was “no way people would buy furniture online.” Chris and Randy were happy to report that their successful prediction surprised even themselves, and the paper catalog was discontinued.
EuroFurniture survived the recession of 2008-2010 by realizing the only people still buying were the wealthier upper classes and they shifted to lower volume higher end furniture. They continued to visit the furniture trade shows throughout Italy to return with the highest quality contemporary styled Italian home furnishings to appeal to their current customer base.
As the country came out of the economic crisis, the Racana family knew they needed to rebrand their family business by bringing all the former companies together under one name, EuroFurniture. Father and sons desired to share their vision of the highest quality contemporary furniture combined with customer service to exceed all expectations.
EuroFurniture now carries popular domestic lines from, among others, American Leather, Thayer Coggin, Younger and Copeland. While Richard Racana Jr. is still considered the “big boss,” the ever-popular domestic line is chosen and overseen by Randy Racana. While some designs can be found in other high quality furniture stores, EuroFurniture also offers imported lines that no one else carries.
Chris Racana continues to travel to Italy in search of the highest quality Italian contemporary home furnishings; sometime his father still accompanies. His personal goal is to contract at least one new Italian designer each year who does not have distribution to the U.S., allowing EuroFurniture to offer their clientele unique pieces not seen anywhere else. With the experience of generations discovering and buying furniture in Italy, this is what gives EuroFurniture the relationships and knowledge to bring their clients the very best.
As EuroFurniture moves into the future, their largest area of growth for the current decade is amongst those working with the furniture trade. Interior designers, decorators and architects are now utilizing and partnering with EuroFurniture, using EuroFurniture’s showroom as their own to display new and unique lines of home furnishings. With decades of experience and relationships worldwide, EuroFurniture is able to source, buy, warehouse and deliver all the resources a trade professional could ever desire.
EuroFurniture’s customer service is unparalleled as they continue to offer personal delivery and setup to any location within 8 hours of Chicago. The deliverymen and the Mercedes Sprinter (lovingly known as EuroSprinter) are also part of the family. A real person always answers the phone and their online service is exceptional.
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Home furnishing styles have and will continue to evolve and change, but what won’t change is the Racana’s dedication to bringing you the very best in service and product. We are three generations deep in a family run business in the heart of Chicago. Our fourth generation consists of four in grade school and two more on the way, and that only strengthens our family’s commitment to bring your family unique, high quality contemporary home furnishings. After all, your home is your castle, and we strive to make what goes inside reflect only the very best.
-Richard, Randy and Chris Racana