Geek Chic, the Everett Washington-based maker of custom furniture for gamers, suddenly shut down on June 13. Robert Gifford, the owner, made the announcement by posting a graphic bearing the notice onto their Facebook page at 3:08pm on June 13. The message was subsequently posted onto their homepage, geekchichq.com about a half hour later.
The online community reported the first signs of trouble on the previous day. Many of the items on the website were suddenly marked “not available” or “sold out”. Previously high-responsive customer service “Valets” suddenly went silent. Emails to the company began bouncing and phone calls went unanswered.
It is with great sadness that I must announce Geek Chic has ceased operation. Despite heroic efforts by many, this outcome is out of our hands. While I am certain there are many outstanding questions, we are currently limited in our ability to respond. I will update this page with appropriate contact information and procedures as they become available.
I am forever indebted to those who joined us on this adventure, and am absolutely gutted about it’s end.
– Robert Gifford
No warning, no communication
The sudden shut down has disappointed a lot of the company’s fans, but has also left a lot of customers with unfulfilled orders angry and confused. As late as days leading up to the event, Geek Chic was still processing payments and arranging for delivery of completed furniture. Their pricing ranged from a few thousand to over ten thousand dollars for a 6-foot-long “Emissary” model table – their most customizable dinner table – with eight chairs. Their “Sultan” model table had a starting price of $5,500.
Geek Chic did a lot of their marketing showing off their furniture at various gaming conventions including San Diego Comic Con, WonderCon, PAX and most recently at the Phoenix Comic Con. Their booth was very popular and their products often evoked a lot of wistful sighs from those who could only dream of owning such a monument to their hobby.
Because of the pricing, Geek Chic would take a deposit to put a customer into the build queue. Monthly payments would be set so that the table would be paid for by the time the customer came to the head of the line. A team of employees would deliver the table from the facility to the buyer’s home upon completion. This has resulted in some customers having fully paid for their furniture but with no furniture delivered. There has been no communication to customers aside from the ambiguous message posted on the company’s website and Facebook. More than a few Facebook posts reveal that customers only found out about the closure from friends. Some posters had just made the final payments for delivery that week.
A thriving niche market
Geek Chic’s signature specialty items were a range of tables that were both gamer-friendly and heirloom quality. Hand-crafted from American hardwoods, they featured felt-lined “vaults” – recessed areas for miniature gaming. The vaults could be covered with with inset leaves to form a flat dining surface while leaving the game set up for resumption at a later time. Customization options included features like cup holders, a retractable laptop work station and dice drawers.
Geek Chic started in 2008 and expanded their production space twice in their first four years. They had grown to take up all or part of three buildings as of this year. In 2015, Robert Gifford appeared on Shark Tank trying to obtain some additional capital. At the time, he valued the company at about $2 million but revealed that he had a net loss of $100,000 that year. Even though “the sharks” were impressed, it was not enough to secure a deal. They cited increased competition as one of the risk factors.
Several other companies have emerged to cater to to the market. These operations are smaller and the quality may or may not be the same as offered by Geek Chic. Lower price points seem to be the common factor among these competitors.
As of this writing, it is unclear what the path forward is for Geek Chic and its customers. If they are heading towards bankruptcy, they are presumably talking to a lawyer which would explain why they are not able to talk to customers – who are now considered creditors. Whether the outcome is reorganization or liquidation, this is likely to be an ongoing issue for at least a year.