Jordan's Furniture - Mardi Gras!
We have seen the Future of Tourism, and it is a... furniture store.
In New England, Jordan's Furniture has been pioneering a promotional trend that few other retail chains around the country have attempted: turn your otherwise humdrum stores into fantastic theme park experiences. Jordan's is well-known in Massachusetts for its strange combination of affordable living room sets, free multimedia extravaganzas, and IMAX theaters.
That's why one might walk into Jordan's Natick store to buy a bed, and find a mutant jester leaping out of the wall. It's a step further than Cabela's outdoorsmen stores or Stew Leonard's dairy/grocery stores have yet gone.
Every Jordan's Furniture store is unique, but we thought the one in Natick offered the most immersive experience. Visitors enter a darkened promenade. The front of a tall riverboat pokes out, next to the Bourbon Street "taxi stand" -- plastic yellow stroller cars available for pushing young children. It's New Orleans -- pre-Katrina, anyway. The mixture of bayou plantation and back alley blues bar is a pastiche of the photogenic South, likely designed by some Yankee. But that's fine for New Englanders, who should ultimately stay more focused on the furniture than the facade.
Visitors not buying (or still deciding) gathered to stand at the end of a simulated French Quarter street for the hourly multimedia show. It was loosely about the Mardi Gras, with booming music and a raucous stage light show. The animatronic hosts arrived by crashing their car through the front of the "House of Blues" (they appear to us to be Jake and Elwood Blues -- though not precisely an Akroyd and Belushi. Later we were told they are supposed to resemble the owners of Jordan's, Barry and Eliot Tatelman.).
Suddenly, a child's nightmare jester slowly telescoped overhead, while saucy robot characters popped out of balcony doorways. Behind the audience, a towering Louis Armstrong, wailing on his trumpet, slowly dipped forward, as if tipping over after coming back from the dead. No promo messages about furniture, just good, clean Carnival of Delusions fun. Revved up for even more, we could sense the audience's' disappointment when another door popped open -- and it was only a guy looking for the leather couch department.
After the show, the crowd dispersed into the surrounding furniture display rooms. We did the same, out of a sense of indebtedness to support the Free Show, but also to see what else might be lurking behind the pier wall sets and ottomans. At the very rear of Jordan's Furniture we found the IMAX Theater, along with the leather couch department.
When you're thoroughly overstimulated, the Natick store also offers a Bose hi-fi audio store, and a roast beef restaurant with a view of a large fish aquarium.
Is this the future of shopping? Or the future of tourism? Beats us.