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Rooms to Go needs some room to grow

Rooms to Go has grown so quickly that it's already time to knock out some walls and expand its sprawling 480,000-square-foot warehouse and headquarters.

The Tampa-based chain of 27 stores has signed an option to buy 5 acres next door for a 105,000-square-foot warehouse expansion at 11540 U.S. 92 E.

Ultimately the expansion would increase the distribution center work force from 300 to 400 people. But first the company needs a zoning change from the Hillsborough County Commission this spring.

"We're adding 10 to 12 stores this year, so the choice was to build here or open a satellite distribution center in South Florida," said Jeff Seaman, president of the young furniture chain. "This next year is going to be a very big year for rolling out new stores."

Most of the new stores will be in South Florida, where Rooms to Go has expanded its basic 16,000-square-foot store to 20,000 square feet. Three others will mark the company's expansion into Jacksonville. The eighth Tampa Bay area store opens on N Dale Mabry Highway just north of Interstate 275 in Tampa next weekend.

The company has no plans yet to expand beyond Florida.

In four years, Rooms to Go has used a formula of sleek stores, moderately priced contemporary furniture and accessorized displays to generate sales of about $115-million in 1993. A big part of the formula: discount package prices for furniture bought by the room and quick delivery.

As the chain has grown as a retailer, it has become more of a force in the manufacturing end of the business as well.

The company now accounts for up to half of some of its suppliers' business. One, Key West Lamp Co., even moved from Los Angeles to Tampa to be closer to its principal customer.

"We're very involved in furniture design now," said Seaman. "So we're getting to the point where we are going to get into the manufacturing business" with its own private label brands.