Two years ago, Sam Unruh toured a large historic building for sale in the heart of Kansas City.
The former church, built in the early 1900s, still featured original stained glass windows and woodwork, soaring ceilings and a limestone facade — 22 inches thick and locally sourced.
Unruh wished he could relocate his growing Grandview-based company, Unruh Furniture, to the building. But it was listed at $600,000, way out of his price range.
“The vision for my company has consistently been to give the customer an experience, to let them see the furniture being made, and this was such a cool building. But I really couldn’t afford it,” Unruh said.
By late 2015, he needed to expand again and the asking price for the building, 3600 Walnut St., had dropped considerably. Unruh was able to buy it for $350,000. He plans to put more than $450,000 into rehabbing the property.
Unruh Furniture is scheduled to relocate to the site in late spring. The former sanctuary — with a 65-foot ceiling — will be the company’s furniture finishing room for final assembly, staining and painting.
An addition at the back of the building (circa 1912) will be a “build room,” where the company’s six craftsmen will make the custom pieces. Soaring 26 feet above is a domed stained glass skylight. A wraparound balcony will be enclosed in glass so customers can watch the process. Former Sunday school classrooms along the balcony will become showrooms.
The pastor’s office will be the staging room where Unruh Furniture will photograph its pieces.
In the basement, Unruh found a vault room with the original architectural bids, the original deed from 1903, church documents and photos from over the years. He plans to display many of the items. The building shows up in the 1905 city directory as home to Westminster Congregational Church, the building’s longtime tenant.
Unruh started the business in 2010. He was working in property management but began making furniture for friends and family out of the detached garage at his Grandview home. His wife, who was pregnant with their first child at the time, encouraged him to quit his full-time job and start Unruh Furniture.
“It’s a bold move. I never would have done it without that support,” he said.
At first, he sold pieces on Craigslist. In 2012, he bought a tiny abandoned house in Grandview, renovated it and hired his first employee. A year later, Unruh Furniture had outgrown the house and relocated to a 5,000-square-foot warehouse, adding several more employees. In mid-2014, Unruh purchased and renovated a 10,000-square-foot warehouse next door. He now has a staff of 14 and expects to more than double that in the new location.
The company’s tables, beds, sideboards, dressers, armoires and other pieces are made of hardwoods — mostly alder, walnut, hickory and maple. Pieces are made to order, so prices vary depending on the type of wood and size. A dining room table generally costs from $800 to $1,500.
RC Jensen and John Sweeney of Reece Commercial Real Estate handled the negotiations for the seller.