Shop Talk

See The Latest On Shop Talk

Smith Village employees are rewarded with keys to store

Photo: Smith Village’s new owners are (left to right): Gary Inners, Mark Warner, William Ream and, front, Colleen Schaffner. The four have a combined 111 years of experience at Smith Village.

Home Furnishings Association members Dallas Smith and Susan Smith Hake have retired, but their store, Smith Village Home Furnishings, isn’t going anywhere. The brother and sister, second-generation owners of the Jacobus, Pa., store, turned the business over to four loyal and longtime employees.

The store’s new owners are Gary Inners, warehouse manager; William Ream, store manager and buyer; Colleen Schaffner, director of advertising and buyer; and Mark Warner, controller. The new owners, who have a combined 111 years’ experience working for Smith Village, took over in March.

A bear and monkey and gator (oh, my!)

Smith Village has a long history in central Pennsylvania. The store was founded in 1932 by Bruce V. Smith, who attracted customers by offering, among other things, a petting zoo. The zoo included a bear, a monkey and an alligator — the latter Smith sometimes kept in his basement at home.

Eventually, Smith handed down the store to his children, who also include Donald Smith, Anna Mae Gerlich and Dale Smith. Dallas Smith and Susan Smith Hake will now join their siblings in retirement.
Dallas Smith said the idea of transferring ownership of the company had been in the works for about two years.

“We came up with a plan to transfer ownership to our four loyal, long-term managers, in recognition of their dedication and ability to operate the business successfully,” said Smith, the store’s president. “Each of them has been at Smith Village for over 20 years.”

Smith Village is no longer run by the Smith family, but the new owners are keeping the family name.

Ream said he and the other new owners were a little surprised when they were asked if they’d be interested in buying the business. “It was a bit out of the blue but knowing there was not another generation in the works, we figured there had to be something in the works,” he said.

Don’t expect a lot of changes under the new owners, said Ream. “We’ve been pretty successful for 87 years with what we’ve been doing, which is providing the best customer service and attention to detail we can. We’re not about to change that.”

Even though the last of the Smiths is retiring, the name of the store will live on. The store will also continue to run Furniture Outlet, a clearance center located across the street from the store in Jacobus, with the current employees and management team in place.

The company has 37 employees. “For our customers, there will be no change at all, and really not for our employees either,” Dallas Smith said.

Regional chamber honors HFA member Sheely’s as small business of the year

Photo Caption: Sheely’s Furniture will receive its small business of the year award in August.

Even when the call came earlier this summer, Jeff Curry found it hard to believe. After all, in the 67 years  Home Furnishings Association member Sheely’s Furniture has been serving northeast Ohio, the family-run store has never even been nominated for a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Salute to Business honor, let alone taken home an award.

One call ended both droughts. “When the chamber called, they asked, “Are you sitting down?’ It’s still a little hard to take in,” says Curry, who, along with Jessica Smith and Lance Romeo are still getting used to running the store as the new owners of Sheely’s. “We’re all very pleased and even more so honored that we won. Our employees are really proud, and they should be because this is 100 percent about them and what they do for our customers.”

Governor to speak

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will be the featured speaker at the ceremony Aug. 29 in Boardman, Ohio. Curry says Sheely’s is planning on sending a lot of employees to the ceremony. “This doesn’t happen every day – though we’re going to try hard to see that it happens again next year.”

The award is all the more remarkable given the store is less than a year removed from a major changing of the guard. Sheely’s was founded in 1952 by Dale Sheely Sr. Dale Jr. and Sherry Sheely sold the business in August to Jessica Smith, a granddaughter of Dale Sr., and longtime employees Curry, the store’s general manager, and Lance Romeo, the store’s buyer.

“I don’t think the operation missed a beat when the transition took place,” said Curry. “That’s a testament to the staff we have here. Everyone jumped up and said, ‘What can we do to make this (transition) a success?’ Then they went out and did it.”

Sheely’s sells the usual upholstery and wood furniture, but it also does a large amount of business in appliances. Last year the store’s 10 trucks did more than 22,000 deliveries, according to Curry. “A lot of people outsource their deliveries, we still have our own guys,’ says Curry. We like that control, we like being the first ones our customers see when they walk into our store and the last ones they see when we walk out of their homes after a delivery. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been such a success over the years.”

Shoppers lined up outside City Furniture's newest grand opening in Orlando to receive free $100 City gift cards.

In Orlando, City Furniture opens its biggest store yet

Photo: Shoppers line up outside City Furniture’s new Orlando store for a free $100 store gift card.

Home Furnishings Association member City Furniture has gone big in Orlando. How big? The two-story, 120,000-square-foot store on Interstate 4 that opened last month is the largest in City Furniture’s 32-store Florida network.

City Furniture is also going green. How green?  The new store is one of eight City locations recently built to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED-certified buildings meet one of the highest environmental performance standards in the world, assessed by site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, material section, indoor air quality and innovation in design.

New POS technology

The new City Furniture includes many of the hallmark amenities and services City has added to its stores in recent years, including the KC Café & Wine bar and City Marketplace, a dedicated in-store shop for home accessories. It also has an advanced point of sale technology that company officials are trumpeting as the first of its kind in the U.S. furniture industry.

Customers can learn about availability and complete purchase of any item while relaxing with a glass of wine on a sofa, or testing a mattress – or from anywhere in the store. City pioneered the customized iPad sales system, working closely with Apple and IBM.

In real time, the system enables sales associates to check all items in stock and at all City Furniture stores and distribution centers. It also allows a salesman to take payment and complete scheduling the delivery almost instantaneously, making the experience faster, easier and more pleasant for customers.

City Marketplace is a home accents store-within-a-store that's key to City's generation 3 showrooms
City Marketplace is a home accents store-within-a-store that’s key to City Furniture’s $100 million expansion in Florida.

City Furniture President Andrew Koenig, who has been overseeing the company’s $100 million expansion in Central and South Florida, said the innovations implemented in City stores are not perks, but rather important necessities to the company’s growth.

“Growing in today’s crowded furniture industry demands constant innovation, to engage customers and make shopping enjoyable and streamlined,” said Koenig. “Our values and our customers’ concerns drive City Furniture’s innovation, whether it’s our 2040 Green Promise to be fully carbon neutral by 2040, or our 5 percent Giving Pledge that commits us to give back at least 5 percent of annual profits to charities in the communities we serve.”

City operates 19 showrooms from Miami through Vero Beach, and in Fort Myers, Naples, The Villages and Orlando, as well as 13 Ashley Furniture showrooms as that brand’s Southeast and Southwest Florida licensee.

Read the Shop Talk blog for news about HFA members.

Chris Cooley, Ron Robinson

Community matters in retail, Chris Cooley says

Retail is all about community, Chris Cooley (left, in photo above) told an audience at Las Vegas Market July 29.

Cooley, owner of Home Furnishings Association member Michael Alan Furniture & Design in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., participated in Retail Titans & Innovators, a discussion of retail trends and challenges co-sponsored by LVM and Furniture Today. Other panelists were Ron Robinson (right, in photo above) of RonRobinson in Los Angeles and Tara Riceberg of Best Gift Store Ever in Los Angeles. Furniture Today Editor in Chief Bill McLaughlin moderated.

One of the best ways to draw people to her store, said Cooley, is to hold a fundraiser.

“It’s not a sales event, it’s a ‘We are giving back’ event,” she said. “Unless you’re giving back to your community or to the industry you’re part of, why are you doing it?”

The business has already begun promoting its September 24-hour “Sleepless in Havasu” fundraiser to support the battle against breast cancer. Sponsors pay participants for staying awake, Cooley said.

Young consumers respond to community events

That’s one event of many. Some retailers find it a challenge to reach millennials, but Cooley has discovered that they respond to a good cause. “Every time we have a fundraiser, they’re there,” she said. And they’re welcome to have their own. If parents want to hold a pancake fundraiser for their kids’ soccer team in her parking lot, that’s great.

Participation extends to her staff. Cooley wants them to get involved in their own community activities. Any civic club they join, she’ll gladly pay the dues. It’s not only good business in a small town, it’s part of the culture at Michael Alan, which was founded by Cooley’s parents in 1980 as a manufacturer. As owner, “you need to be there and set an example,” Cooley said. “It starts at the top.”

Robinson and Riceberg offered their own observations about the importance of creating enjoyment and satisfaction for customers in ways they can’t find by shopping online. Cooley provides positive experiences in other ways, too – with design services, for example. “A $500 value, for free,” she said.

Make it unique, and sprinkle in fun

“Most people, they need help,” she explained. They could pick out a beautiful sofa, but if they don’t add the right lamp or rug to go with it they could end up frustrated because it won’t look the same as it did in the store.

Her collections are unique, even if the pieces themselves aren’t one of a kind. She calls her approach “sprinkling and layering.” It amounts to mixing things up a little. “Why have the same table and chairs as someone else?” A lot of different chairs can look great with that table. “Do whatever it takes to make it unique to your store, and sprinkle fun in there.

 “Plus, I serve wine in wine glasses and beer in frosty mugs, so that helps,” she said.

Read about HFA members in the Shop Talk blog.

Schewels home leaders

HFA member rebrands as Schewels Home

Home Furnishings Association member Schewel Furniture Company, a 50-store furniture retail chain focusing on in-house financing, has rebranded as Schewels Home.

The Lynchburg, Va.-based Top 100 retailer was founded in 1897 and is now in its fifth generation of family leadership. It operates stores in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, offering living, dining and bedroom furniture and mattresses and also selling appliances, electronics and lawn and garden equipment.

“A lot of things have changed over 122 years, but what hasn’t is our commitment to go above and beyond for our customers,” CEO Marc Schewel, who represents the fourth generation of the family to run the business, said in a news release.

“In order to further enhance that experience, we have decided to become Schewels Home. This change will bring new energy to our stores and new benefits for our customers,” he said.

Expanded 0 percent financing

The main new customer benefits are: lower prices, expanded 0 percent interest financing every day, and a $50,000 community investment, the company said. The community investment funds will be allocated to each store based on size, and a committee of store employees will help determine what local organizations to support. 

“At the same time, we are recommitting to our mission: providing affordable home furnishings and exceptional customer service to generations of families,” said Jack Schewel, also from the fourth generation.

The company strives to achieve its mission every day while upholding the following values: integrity, customer focus, family, commitment to employees, teamwork and community, according to the news release.

As part of the rebranding initiative, the company is remodeling the interiors and exteriors of its largest stores, in the Virginia cities of Lynchburg, Roanoke, Danville and Charlottesville. The grand opening for the flagship Lynchburg location will be Aug. 23.

The store signage and delivery truck exteriors at the other 46 stores will be converted to the new logo on a rolling basis over the next two years, the news release stated. The company said it will continue its ongoing store revitalization program, which has remodeled a third of the stores since the fall of 2017.

The right time to update image

The new brand identity and store exteriors were designed by Martin Roberts Design of New York, a leading retail design firm.

“We feel like the time is right to update our image,” said Matt Schewel, director of store operations, who represents the fifth generation. “We also want to create a brand that’s going to appeal to young people, while improving the retail experience for our long-time customers.”

Read about HFA members in the Shop Talk blog.

wait a minute...

have you read these details yet?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna exercitation ullamco