Like most furniture retailers, Home Furnishings Association member Riley’s Furniture and Mattress has endured a difficult 2020. The coronavirus pandemic forced the store in Monroe, Ohio, to shut down for more than two months following a state mandate from Gov. Mike DeWine.
The closing came just eight months after founder Riley Griffiths, 75, died in July 2019 from pancreatic cancer. “The pandemic hit about the time we got our feet under us,” said Shannon Bannerman, chief executive officer of Riley’s Furniture and Mattress. “It’s been a whirlwind. Quite a year to dive in.”
After more than a year of heartbreak and challenges, Bannerman and the Riley’s Furniture family are taking time out from the pandemic to celebrate: The company is marking its 50th year in business with a year-long celebration.
Monroe Mayor Jason Frentzel and other city officials showed up at the store Oct. 17 to proclaim the day “Riley’s Furniture & Mattress Day.” The occasion highlighted the 50th anniversary of the family-run furniture store and included live music and gifts for everyone who showed up to help celebrate.
Bannerman, daughter of Riley Griffiths, said she’s proud that the company her father started is still making a positive impact on Monroe and southwest Ohio. “When my dad started this business 50 years ago, he had a vision of what a powerful impact a locally owned, family-focused business could have on a community – from the people we would employ to the customers we would serve. In all those years, what we’ve learned is a very simple lesson with a very significant meaning: Do the right thing.”
Kyle Baker, marketing director at Riley’s, said the company has succeeded for 50 years because it didn’t always go with the flow. The company boasts a non-commissioned sales team and is closed on Sundays, a traditional retail-heavy shopping day. “We have gone out of our way to make decisions that other people in retail might say, ‘You’re crazy. You’re wrong. This is not the way you’re supposed to do it,’ ” said Baker.
Riley’s has changed with the times, embracing new technologies and experimenting with a four-day selling week. Today Riley’s is open for business five days per week and closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. Many well-known furniture and mattress brands are displayed in the store’s 30,000-square-foot showroom, including La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel, Palliser, Canadel, Daniel’s Amish, Tempur-Pedic and Sealy.
Six years ago, the company started a two-year remodeling project that started with the store’s interior, focusing on the showroom floor, and worked its way to the exterior. “We completely remodeled both floors inside and finished up in 2016 with our exterior atrium remodel, changing the outside face of the building,” said Baker.
‘One big family’
What hasn’t changed is the company’s relationship with its employees. Riley Griffiths routinely likened all his employees to family. In October 2018, he took the family on a trip to High Point Market, loading everyone on a private jet from Cincinnati. The idea, said Baker, was to reward the entire staff while also giving them a chance to see both the inner workings of the industry and its grand scale.
For the last 10 years, Bannerman, the oldest of three daughters, worked under her father. Those lessons are paying off as Riley’s has survived these tough economic times.
“I thank God that my father always looked outside the box,” said Bannerman. “I was raised that way. He taught us to be flexible. When I think of COVID, I say, ‘This is a new experience and we need to look at it as an opportunity.’”
Bannerman said the coronavirus continues to impact the furniture business. Since factories can’t find enough employees and some are operating at half capacity, there is a shortage of furniture that eventually will create price increases.
The furniture store was closed from March 23 to May 12. Along with closing an additional day during the week, it also shuts its doors at 7 p.m. daily, one hour earlier than before the pandemic.
Bannerman said these schedule changes allow all employees to be with their families the same two days a week and means the “best of the best” employees are working when the store is open.
She said 12 employees have been at Riley’s for more than 10 years, including ones with 47, 45 and 25 years of experience. “We are one big family,” she said.
Her father’s mission was always to “make the community better and to serve his employees and customers,” Bannerman said. “My dad will always be here. His arms are around this business.”
Want to see your store celebrate a milestone anniversary? Join the Home Furnishings Association.