by Jane Bianchi | March 13, 2017
Made in FLA: Duh for Home and Garden
Two friends turn their Pensacola furniture store with a funny name into a serious design destination with a sprawling garden shop, a café, a clothing boutique and a loyal following.
Let’s get one thing sorted: Pensacola’s Duh isn’t your average high-end furniture store. Stepping onto the beautifully landscaped property, which contains scattered Italian cypress trees, rustic pathways and fountains, transports visitors to Tuscany amid the buildings’ white stucco exteriors, terracotta roofs and dark mahogany doors. And then there’s the greeting committee: the owners’ dogs, Coco, a 10-year-old chocolate lab, and Captain, a 5-year-old yellow lab, fixtures at the store who love to watch customers shop.
What started as a single 2,000-square-foot cinderblock building and a paved parking lot with no surrounding greenery in 2000 sprouted enormously through a million-dollar expansion in 2013. Now it’s a sprawling 30,000-square-foot compound with a cluster of cottage-like buildings that include a barn, a villa lifestyles building, a garden shop, a warehouse across the street, and a quaint eatery named Norma’s at Duh serving lunch fare like salads and soups.
Each place, impeccably arranged for both comfort and luxury, contains a range of high-end wares—upholstery, art, rugs, outdoor furniture, ceramics, stationery, men’s and women’s clothing, plants, fine accessories and one-of-a-kind items that have been imported from all over the world. Duh’s eclectic blend of international and local goods reflects owners Quinn Stinson and Jim Rigsbee’s worldly tastes, but the store’s cohesive design, as elegant as it is cozy, flows from an authentic instinct born out of Stinson’s upbringing.
“My mom was mean and strict and tough as could be. To her, color was for children and hookers, so I grew up with that mentality,” says Stinson, a co-owner along with his former boyfriend (but still best friend) Rigsbee. “My store is very neutral, and I like to bring in color more in art or pillows.”
One thing you won’t see among the furnishings? A knock-off. “I like fine things. I like quality. I could go cheaper, but it’s not for me. I have got to love what I’m selling,” says Stinson.
The business partners became friends after Stinson bought merchandise from Rigsbee at a furniture store in Atlanta. Rigsbee had been itching to start his own furniture shop, and Stinson had friends in Pensacola who were selling a building.
Rigsbee never expected to land in the Panhandle, but fell in love with Pensacola. “It didn’t really remind me of Florida, with all its heritage and the huge, beautiful, live oaks and old architecture,” he says. “The bay reminded me of a lake where I grew up in upstate New York.”
Stinson had saved money from a successful career in the cell phone industry, and he invested it in Rigsbee’s business. The guys split roles, with Stinson traveling the globe as the lead buyer and Rigsbee helming the store and interfacing with customers.
Though Stinson had worked in retail, he’d never been a furniture buyer before, so he faced a steep learning curve. “I felt like I was practicing the violin every day. I just kept working at it and getting better,” Stinson says.
Nowadays, Stinson imagines new ways to arrange the store. He revamps the showroom two or three times a year to lure customers back. Duh also has a unique spin on customer service: they take returned products that customers have outgrown, even years later, in exchange for store credit. One time, a customer felt so chummy with the delivery person that she said, “Tell Landon he knows where the key is. Just get money from the shoebox.”
The store’s simple name also attracts shoppers with a sense of humor. Tired of wearing a coat and tie and Ferragamo shoes to work, Rigsbee wanted his place to be unpretentious. “My friend came up with the name Duh. It stuck,” he says. “We’ve got nice things, but we don’t need to be stuffy.”
Rigsbee and Stinson are a beloved pair in Pensacola. He adds, “I was invited by eight clients to Thanksgiving. It’s that kind of environment. It’s this huge, extended family—and that’s something I’ve always wanted.”