Kenosha business B&L Office Furniture returns in a permanent location after 2020 fire

B&L Office Furniture, the locally owned furniture business that was burned down during riots in 2020, is settling into its new permanent home at 5403 52nd St., with more space and a positive outlook on the Kenosha community.

The new location is the former location of Uke’s Harley Davidson, and at 17,000 square feet, is larger than their former 60th Street store by about 7,000 square feet.

“We’re moving forward pretty good,” said store manager Scott Carpenter. “Reestablishing your business takes time. Your customer base is still there, it’s just getting everything back in place.”

Carpenter said they purchased the building in February, and spent months getting the store up and running. Construction labor shortages, rising material costs and supply shortages, the common plague of nearly all businesses since the pandemic, were a significant hassle, Carpenter said.

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“The biggest project was having the sprinkler system installed,” Carpenter said. “Obviously, office furniture burns.”

The new store, with an expansive showroom, opened on Oct. 1, although Carpenter said he’s holding off on throwing a grand opening event until after the weather gets a little warmer and a few projects are completed. He hopes to finish work on the warehouse and assembly shop, as well as put up the business’ sign.

Bill Carpenter, Scott’s father and the business’ founder, opened B&L Office Furniture in the 1980s, using his and Linda, his wife’s, initials, B and L, for the name. Scott, who has worked with his father at the furniture business since high school, said that after the fire, they ran the B&L out of a warehouse on 76th Street while working from home.

“We lost the entire building and its contents,” Carpenter said. “But we knew we had to keep operating.”

It was a “long road” to the new, permanent location, Carpenter admitted, but after more than 40 years in the community, he said they wanted to stay in Kenosha.

“The community really stepped up,” Carpenter said. “Our supporters were out there, businesses were coming to us after what happened. There are people out there that genuinely care. You don’t always realize it until that moment happens.”

The 52nd Street location, now on its third owner, still has the original floor tile featuring the Uke’s Harley Davidson logo, which Carpenter said they’ve been allowed to keep as is. Couple that with easy main road access and a wide-open showroom, and you’ve got a “cool location,” Carpenter said.

Despite the difficulties the business has faced, Carpenter, a life-long Kenosha resident, has a positive view of his hometown, and emphasized the support and empathy they received after the fire.

“People do listen, they do care,” Carpenter said.