Chris and Kim Knowles

Their annual October sale is usually the busiest time of the year for Knowles Home Furnishings. But last year something went wrong.

The owners, Chris and Kim Knowles, relied on fliers to advertise the sale, but because there was a mix up at the publishers, none of the fliers were delivered in Utah.

But a few hundred of the fliers made it to Colorado, and that was enough.

“We decided to keep going with the sale,” Kim Knowles said. “We used social media and had people text their friends and family.”

Then they waited. By midday more and more people were coming in and by the end of the day they had sold more items then they had believed was possible that morning.

“We ended up having a great sale,” Kim Knowles said.

But having a network of customers so big that it can nearly negate the need to advertise the store’s biggest sale of the year didn’t just happen over night. It has been 52 years in the making.

The Knowles’ furniture store first came to Moab in 1961, as a franchise of Gambles, a Midwest hardware, appliance and furniture store. Donald and JoAnn Knowles were in search of an up-and-coming town to open a furniture store in and believed that, with the mining boon, particularly in Potash, Moab fit the bill.

The Knowles had no experience in home furnishings, so leaving their home in Flagstaff, Ariz., was something of a leap of faith. But Donald Knowles came from a family of miners who had worked all over the world, and he believed that miners were the perfect customer base.

“He knew that miners back then liked to spend money and don’t like to save anything,” Chris Knowles said.

When the store opened on the corner of 100 S. and Main St., where Zax is now (there’s a photo of the old Gambles store in the restaurant), it did well. But a mining cave-in at the Potash mine in the late ‘60s brought the number of employees there down from hundreds to dozens. The Knowles doubted whether their store would survive.

But not only did it survive, it continued to grow.

In the 1980s a group of investors bought Gambles, which had been a profitable company for around 80 years, and quickly ran it into the ground. So the Gambles’ sign came off the Moab storefront, and the Knowles Home Furnishings sign went up.

Around that time is when Chris and Kim came back to town to learn the family business from Chris’s parents. High school sweethearts, they had married at 18 before going to college up north. Three years later they were back and started to take over managing the store.

Then, in December of 1998, they moved the business out to its current location, near the intersection of South Main and 400 East.

“We felt the need for a stand-alone furniture store,” Chris Knowles said. “It was getting to the point where we thought that was a viable idea. Turns out it was.”

The building has been enlarged twice since then and, despite a drop in business with the bursting of the property bubble in 2008, Knowles has kept growing.

Their inventory now includes electronics, appliances, mattresses, flooring, window and home decorations and, of course, furniture. About 75 percent of what passes through the front doors of Knowles is furniture, with mattresses being the biggest sellers.

“Mattresses are the commodity of the furniture world, we sell at least one about every day,” Chris Knowles said.

Knowles believes that being a business owned and operated by a local family makes them better able to serve the community they live in. That is because they work to give their customers what they want at the best value, including free home delivery within the Moab area.

“It’s hard to convince people that they can get the same value here as in a city, but they can,” Chris Knowles said. “We sell brands that people know, like Ashley and Lane.”

Their customers seem to agree.

“They have always given me the best prices they can,” said Deleska Behunin, who has been a customer for 15 years, and who recently bought a heated, massage love seat.