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Cape Breton furniture store adding floor space, employees

Ken McPhee, owner of Keltic Furniture in Sydney River, stands in the showroom of his furniture store on Kings Road. The store’s latest expansion project will conclude in March, adding 6,000 square feet of retail space.
Ken McPhee, owner of Keltic Furniture in Sydney River, stands in the showroom of his furniture store on Kings Road. The store’s latest expansion project will conclude in March, adding 6,000 square feet of retail space. - Greg McNeil
SYDNEY RIVER, N.S. —

Keltic Furniture has come a long way from a small store along Kings Road with a staff of three and an old delivery truck that didn’t work very well.

The store will soon balloon to 22,000 square feet and employee numbers past 20 once an estimated $1-million expansion concludes in March.

“We need the space. The business is there,” owner Ken McPhee said about the latest expansion project for the store.

“The economy, I know, sometimes seems bleak in Cape Breton but we don’t really see that a lot here. As long as you are making sure you have good pricing and good quality, it works.”

McPhee grew up in the Sterling area of Glace Bay and obtained his first retail experience working for Mendelson’s and then the Metropolitan in his home community. But he was actually involved in the insurance industry when he recognized an opportunity in the furniture business and first opened Keltic Furniture in 1982.

Originally, he rented a much smaller version of the building from the Chernin family, before buying it and expanding it several times at its original location.

“The Chernins were a big help to me when I first opened the place. They gave me a break on rent, allowed me to use the Isle Royale Hotel basement for warehouse space for free. They were good to me.”

An exterior view of Keltic Furniture in Sydney River. An expansion project with an estimated cost of $1 million is well underway.
An exterior view of Keltic Furniture in Sydney River. An expansion project with an estimated cost of $1 million is well underway.

The current expansion will add an additional 6,000 square feet of showroom space, and follows a similar expansion about 10 years ago that added 6,000 feet in square footage.

There’s new lighting and other aspects to the latest renovation, too.

McPhee also built a state-of-the-art warehouse in Sydport Industrial Park some seven years ago at a cost of about $1.5 million. That facility, he said, has allowed him to transport container loads of products to Cape Breton from all over the world.

“We are not renting space so it translates into a better price for our customers. At the end of the day that’s why we are adding a piece on because people come back to us.”


FURNITURE FACTS

  • Name: Keltic Furniture
  • Opened: 1982
  • Owner: Ken McPhee
  • Employees: 18
  • Products: Furniture

There’s one more renovation project left to do at the Kings Road location that will see a new glass entrance way added to the front of the building to better display some outdoor furniture.

He hopes to conclude that this summer.

In the meantime, plans are underway to hire two to three additional full-time staff to work in the expanded showrooms at Keltic.

“I have a fabulous staff. At the end of the day, it’s the staff that makes the place survive. I just happen to be lucky to have a very good staff of people here.”

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