Robert Joshua, owner of the Joshua Tree, has been around beautiful things for quite some time. Not only at the present location of The Joshua Tree, located at 2932 N Andrews Ave in Wilton Manors but also in his native Youngstown, Ohio. There he served as Development Director for The Butler Institute of American Art, and as Executive Director for the Lawrence County Historical Society.
“In 1989 I decided to go into business for myself and I opened the first Joshua Tree store in Youngstown. In 1999 I decided to move to Florida and go into early retirement. I sold the name of the business, auctioned off my inventory, sold my house, and 6,000 square feet of antiques that I had in the house. So I didn’t exactly retire,” admitted Joshua.
Although Joshua majored in Political Science and History design has always been a passion for him. He believes the key to his success is always selling a variety of merchandise, to keep a broad section of consumers coming back. Therefore, the store is a colorful mass of furnishings, art, and other objects. This is definitely not an Ikea!
To keep things simple for those coming into the store for antiques he has a separate section, dramatically curtained off from the rest of the store, to house these pieces, which he says must be exceptional.
In terms of the new goods he sells Joshua listens to clients, and watches design trends, to keep customers returning.
“The key to success in business is listening to your clients, finding out what they want,” he told SFGN. “For instance a lot of people have winter homes here. Therefore tropical décor is something clients want, look for and I supply.”
In addition to tropical or Floridian elements – the store boasts a large collection of prints that celebrate Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and all things beachy. Asian design is very hip right now, therefore he has a lot of pieces with an Asian theme.
He is also not afraid to say why he does not stock certain items. When someone came in for a mirrored chest he explained that the mirrored panels are glued on, and do not travel, or hold up well. He also pointed out the material that adheres mirror to wood often discolors, leaving the owner with grainy, discolored glass.
The companies in China that manufacture his goods – such as fun, beautiful armoires, with doors painted to look like books – listen to him, modifying models to garner an American audience. Quite an accomplishment, as he was not formally trained as a designer.
A really “hot seller” for the Joshua Tree are bathroom vanities. A few doors down from the main showroom is a smaller space in which handsome, varied, bathroom vanities are stocked. In fact, a couple came into the shop during the interview to organize the shipment of a vanity to their home in New Jersey.
The vanities were initially not aesthetically up to par for Joshua.
“They lacked something. So, I sketched some suggestions out, sent them to the manufacturer in China, and they took notice.”
The manufacturers prized his opinion, so much so that he has been flown to Hong Kong where he is given the red carpet treatment.
“They provide an excellent translator, driver, and an assistant,” said Joshua. “Yet helping these companies appeal to the American market is something I do on the side, as a consultant.”
However, in addition to working internationally he likes to keep things local as well.
“Most of the mirrors, and the art prints are framed and matted in Florida,” he said proudly. “A friend of mine does really good work.”
After he opened the current location in Wilton Manors, Joshua opened one in Pompano less than a year later because of his success. Soon after he sold the other location as a franchise.
“Sadly, that store was wiped out by Hurricane Wilma,” said Joshua, as he walked me through his eclectic treasure trove where there are goods for all price ranges. At the Joshua Tree you can pick up an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle for less than $5.00 or a dream vanity for over $1,000.
He admitted that 20 years ago, he was afraid to go into business by himself. “That’s why I developed such an eclectic assortment of furniture, art, antiques, and gift items. It really pays to have a broad variety so people have more than just one reason to come in.”
Outside the business, Joshua proudly flies the Pride flag. His clients – many of whom are straight – don’t think of it as being “gay.”
“My clients tell me, that it’s the flag of good taste,” said Joshua happily.
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