AUBURN ― When Rotmans Furniture closed for good in October of last year, Heidi Richardson could not see herself doing anything but the furniture business.
On Saturday, she and about 12 other former Rotmans employees will open Harte’s Home, a furniture store not far from where Route 20 meets Interstate 395 in Auburn.
On a walk through the building on Thursday, Richardson couldn’t help calling it a “mini-Rotmans.” After all, she spent more than 20 years there, most recently working as the general manager.
“I know it sounds so silly, but Rotmans was a different world,” said Richardson. “It was family. It was not just our jobs, for most of us, it was just more than that.
“When Rotmans closed, it didn’t feel like it was time.”
Richardson said the wheels started turning for a new venture the moment longtime owner Steven Rotman called it quits last year at 80.
Richardson, who lives in Northbridge, still saw potential in the business, but she was looking to downscale, without straying too far from the red-brick Rotmans building, still identifiable by westbound motorists zooming past the Interstate 290 curve by Fitton Field.
It was a venture that she at first thought might be too great an undertaking.
“Would there be a space that made sense?” said Richardson. “Could we create a model that makes sense and still supports this community, brings them what we think they need?
“It the beginning, I didn’t believe all the pieces were going to fit.”
Although Richardson is 75% owner and describes the business as “my brainchild,” she describes the effort put into bringing it to life as collective work with the help of co-workers with hundreds of years of combined experience.
Richardson brought Marvin Carron of Southbridge aboard