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Business Profile

Tin Roof | Forefront

On any given day, you can walk into one of Heather Hanely's stores, unplug, and escape to housewares and home accessory heaven. Heather leads a family legacy of sharing their passion and innovation with the Inland Northwest. Heather's story begins long before she was born and continues today with her desire to share new and exciting furniture and home decor options with her customers.

In 1945, after returning home to Spokane from the war, Signal Corpsman Arch Hanley opened ACME Electric, repairing radios in the building that now houses the restaurant Vien Dong. Seven years later, Sensing a shift in the market, Arch sold his first television.

In 1978, Arch’s son Jim saw similar promise in devices called “Computers,” and took a shine to a little baby daughter he named Heather. The Hanleys have deep roots in Spokane, and Heather is close with her family, but she didn't plan to go into the family business. She went away to college in Oakland, studied economics, and took her first job in San Francisco’s Financial District. And hated it.

Meanwhile, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, TVs changed and so did the TV business. Bulky consoles — furniture items in their own right — had given way to larger screens and less wood. By the time Heather returned to Spokane, ACME TV had begun selling TV stands. As she began helping out with marketing the store, an even bigger shift happened.

People began asking for side tables to go with their TV stands. One day, Heather says, a customer asked, “can you get me a couch to go with that?” When her electronics suppliers began to take jobs as furniture suppliers, Hanley knew the writing was on the wall.

As TVs got flatter and lighter, more and more people would buy them online, but there’s something about sitting in a chair before you buy it that the Internet could never compete with. More furniture came before the name change. It took years of subtle coaxing, Heather says, before she told her father, “We’re never going to be able to convince people to buy furniture from Acme TV.”

Four years later, the Hanleys opened Tin Roof | Forefront in downtown Spokane, hoping to help create a market for simple, clean, modern furniture. The timing would have been perfect — Mad Men had just begun swelling what has become a massive wave of interest in mid-century style — if the housing bubble hadn't burst at the same time.

Now, though, as people move here from more expensive cities or “boomeranging back, they’re bringing their look with them.” These new and returning Spokanites are finding in Concept Home a place with some of the urban savvy they left.

There are now three stores in the Hanley empire. ReSkued, a clearance store opened in 2011, turns four years old this year. Tin Roof | Forefront is 7 and The Tin Roof is 11. ACME would be 70.

And while the path from radios to TVs to computers to home furnishings means the Hanley enterprises of today bear little resemblance to the ACME Electric that started it all, each successful shift, in its own way, has been built on the same impulse.

The family has headquartered themselves at their Tin Roof location on this block of Sprague for 70 years, and grown into downtown, by seeing the next thing coming and giving people something they don’t realize they’re missing.

For Arch and Jim, that meant helping people find new ways to plug in. For Heather, it seems, that means helping people remember how to unplug completely.