Furniture is big business. The global furniture and home furnishings stores market is expected to grow from $372.83 billion in 2020 to $404.7 billion in 2021. The market is expected to reach $481.11 billion in 2025, according to “Furniture And Home Furnishings Stores Global Market Report 2021: COVID-19 Impact and Recovery to 2030.”
A boutique furniture store in Brooklyn is carving out a small niche in the sector. Lichen NYC was launched by two furniture design enthusiasts Ed Be and Jared Blake. Be and Blake know they are a rarity in this business — two men of color selling high-end home goods.
Lichen NYC, which fashion bible Vogue magazine called East Williamsburg’s coolest furniture store, offers a wide range of prices for pieces you won’t find anywhere else.
They scour the globe to add pieces to their collection, like lamps from Lagos, Nigeria. Offering vintage pieces alongside designer items, each piece they sell is truly distinctive. The business offers high-end, quality furniture at affordable prices.
Be and Blake met on Craigslist when Be purchased a chair Blake was selling on the platform. When Be went to pick up the chair, the two discovered they had a lot in common, most of all the love of furniture design and entrepreneurship.
In 2018, combining years of experience collecting, selling, and trading designer furniture, they went into business together. But they didn’t give up their day jobs immediately. Blake has a background in e-commerce. Be had managed the now-defunct Manhattan restaurant Republic.
“I worked at an advertising agency, and Ed worked in hospitality/management,” Blake told Finurah.
They opened Lichen NYC and started selling vintage furniture and objects online. Sourcing pieces from all over, from Craigslist to friends, the two used Instagram as a marketing tool.
A year later, they were in their first brick-and-mortar location. Blake quit his day job and went full time with Lichen; Be followed suit in 2020. They opted for a storefront in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
“We both lived in Brooklyn, and it made the most sense from a business perspective,” notes Blake.
They made the business have a welcoming community feel. They offer house-made coffee within the store for shoppers and encourage people to stop by and sit awhile. With the inventory forever changing, customers frequently stop in to shop. One day you might find a $60 rosewood chair. Another day, you might come upon a $2,000 Gaetano Pesce chair. According to Burke, most items in Lichen’s inventory are under $200.
“Our pricing structure is radical in comparison to our competitors. We try our best to offer the most affordable prices in the tri-state area,” explains Blake.
Their pricing structure helped Lichen NYC survive the COVID-19 pandemic business shutdowns. “An affordable pricing structure and powerful support from our community helped us weather the hardships,” reveals Blake, who says the pandemic taught the pair a few business lessons.
“We learned that consistency is key,” shares Blake. “We never deviated from our plan; we just continued to navigate the waters to the best of our ability. When our community needed desks and desk chairs, we were able to meet the demand through our best practices.”