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Hitting the Right Note
Story by Robert Waldner
Photo by Kate Gardiner
Jeff Cohen’s story could be catagorized as “a passion for excellence in tune with any industry;” especially since Cohen was able to transfer 30 prosperous years in the music industry to a marked success in the custom furniture business here in St. Augustine. When Cohen took a high school job as a cashier in a record store, he quickly fell in love with the business aspect of the industry. Growing into a passionate entrepreneur, he built flourishing businesses in retail and record distribution, eventually becoming the owner of his own record label.
Years later, after struggling to keep up with technological advances in music, Cohen decided to sell his business. “It wasn’t ideal. Music has always been my passion. However, I was sure that I could go out and get a job with ease,” he says. Unfortunately, without a college degree, he found it difficult to get hired.
With a proven talent for entrepreneurship, in 2007 Cohen decided to once again direct his own enterprise, this time in the furniture industry. One day, while working with a business broker, he received a distress call from a leather furniture store that was being offered for sale for assets only. “I took a shot at it. I saw the downward business trend but also saw plenty of opportunity for improvement. Eventually we were able to contain costs and survive the industry downturn,” states Cohen.
Today, Leather By Design is thriving in St. Augustine’s custom furniture industry. Immediately after taking over, Cohen focused on improving the store’s offerings. Now a dealer in medium-to-high-quality custom leather furniture, he explains, “We’ve brought in the Stressless Line, which is a high-end Norwegian orthopedic line of furniture.” That focus and dedication to quality carries over into a love for the community they serve. To help local charities, Leather By Design refurbishes “haul-aways” and donates them for the charities’ own use or to re-sell for funding.
In order to better serve their clients, the showroom was relocated from Cobblestone Mills to a building on US1 South which was converted from four offices suites. With the ability to deliver their beautiful, custom leather furniture within 4-5 weeks from purchase, Cohen, along with Operations Manager, Steve Lent, understands why they continue to thrive. “Our success is overwhelmingly due to repeat customers and referrals,” he says. he asserts, “We like to sell the way we like to buy — with absolutely no pressure.”