What was the Reason, Mazer’s Closed Their Doors?

When the economy takes a turn for the worse, there are some that are affected by it immediately and some that are affected by it further down the road. When you’re in business, how soon your business will be feeling the crunch of the economy depends largely on what kind of business you’re in. For Mazers Discount Superstore, that crunch came quickly after the housing market took a dive in 2007.

The Mazer Discount Superstore is the model of a family-owned business. It was founded by Ben Mazer in 1932 – in the midst of the Great Depression. When the business first opened in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, it was primarily a building supply company. It then evolved into the Mazer Lumber Company and afterwards, soon began offering other home furnishing materials. Prior to its liquidation sale in 2011, it had expanded into a 200,000 square foot store. It also had an Avondale location which is closed in 2009.

How can a business that seems to have survived so much (the Great Depression, World War II, etc) be affected so deeply by the instability of the economy? The very nature of their business opens them up to be directly affected by the housing market crash. When they purchase furniture and other home furnishing materials from the manufacturers, they invest the money relying on the notion that they will be selling the items to consumers fairly quickly. In a stable market, people are able to purchase homes, remodel their existing homes, and replace old furniture with new.

However when the economy becomes so tight that individuals can no longer to afford to purchase large ticket items such as furniture, flooring, and appliances, or when contractors can no longer afford to build new homes, there are no consumers to shop for new furniture. Without them to get the furniture and home furnishings “off the sales floor”, the store is stuck with the expensive purchases. They paid the money out to purchase them initially, but they are not getting any return on their investment. After months and years of “bleeding” money like this, a business often has no choice but to close their facility.

This is similar to what happened to Mazers. In their case, they had reportedly invested so much in kitchen and flooring prior to the economy tanking, and they couldn’t sell any of it.

Owner Michael Mazer made the final decision to close the business. At the height of its existence, Mazers employed over 300 people. By the time the store was ready to close, they were working with a skeleton crew of just 100 people. Michael Mazer was quoted as saying “My grandfather started this business during the Great Depression, and it looks like the great recession has been the end.”

Mazer recently leased 33,000 square feet of the former Homewood, Alabama location to the Jimmie Hale Mission to be used as a thrift store. Perhaps the essence of Mazers can still live on in another form.