It’s not surprising that during my 13 years as a part of the Home Furnishings Association my mind has been trained to instinctively home in on a furniture retail store amid all the other businesses on any give street — very similar to the way my career in graphic design and marketing has trained my subconscious to identify fonts anywhere I go.
Recently, while visiting my sister-in-law, a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Wainwright’s Bassett Army Community Hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska, I spotted a massive furniture store standing nobly against the cold and snow. Sadler’s Home Furnishings. Now, normally I would simply check off this find in my mental game of impromptu scavenger hunt and drive on — scoring myself an extra 20 points for identifying the Optima Extra Black font used in the store’s name. But this time was different.
A week earlier I had been part of an all staff meeting where we discussed for two days all the ways we can serve our members better. Needless to say, I came away with the acknowledgment that we are all part of member support — from the CEO, membershipteam, marketing, events and education all the way through to the accounting department. So, my next step was a no-brainer. I found out that Sadler’s has been members of the association since 1987 and, despite not being part of our member service team, I can’t be all the way in Alaska and not stop in.
The warm reception was welcomed as I stepped in from the cold, and when I told the sales associates, Patrick Slagle and John Morrs, that I was from their trade association and just wanted to stop in and thank them for being long-time members, they were gleefully astonished that someone from the lower 48 would trek so far north just to say howdy and personally hand them a water bottle with the Home Furnishings Association’s logo on it.
I confessed to the guys that my stopping by was simply a fortuitous byproduct of visiting my sister-in-law, but they appreciated the effort, nonetheless.
We chatted about everything from product lines and consumer financing to their delivery trucks — Fairbanks can reach temperatures down to -50° and Sadler’s delivery cutoff is at -30°. Still willing to deliver in -29° weather? Color me impressed! Considering that Patrick had only been with the store for three months and John much less, they were very knowledgeable and attributed that to Sadler’s training program.
Patrick and John were sorry the manager wasn’t in, but after hearing how much their store manager enjoys being on the sales floor and engaging with customers from the community, I knew I had to give him a call.
When Peter Beaver answered the phone, I quickly broke the (Alaskan) ice by commenting that his last name was well-suited for Alaska. He laughed and we were off to a pleasant 35-minute conversation.
“I love getting to know our customers,” Peter said. “Everyone is so pleasant and happy when they come in. Think about it. When people are coming to buy furniture, they’re in a pretty good mood. No one’s buying furniture when they’re down and out.”
During our conversation, I learned that Dave Cavitt, Sadler’s owner since 1975 — and one-time president of the former National Home Furnishings Association — converted the Fairbanks showroom space 15 years ago from a former JCPenney store to join Sadler’s Anchorage headquarters location to the south and a store farther south in Sterling.
In fact, the downtown Fairbanks location underwent a renovation about two-and-a-half years ago to accommodate 15,000 square feet of showroom on the first floor comprised of an Ashley showroom on one side and a mattress store on the other selling Serta, Simmons, Sealy, and Tempur-pedic. Upstairs is a 30,000-square-foot showroom carrying all of Sadler’s other lines, including Stickley, La-z-boy, Home Stretch, Stanton, Steve Silver, Emerald Home, Natuzzi, and many other brands, giving the 55,000-square-foot Anchorage store a run for its money.
Outside the Fairbanks store was a banner promoting the 46th anniversary sale with 46 percent off everything storewide with only a few exceptions, so I asked how the sale was going.
“For the past five years we’ve had an anniversary sale,” Peter said. “Usually it’s in April and it really hits a home run with the community. This is the first time we’ve done it in March, but it still seems to be a big hit.”
Having some intel about the Alaskan economy from my sister-in-law, I asked Peter if the annualPFD — the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend, a constitutionally established byproduct of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline which paid every Alaskan resident $1,600 in 2018 — provided a surge in sales.
“Oh, for sure,” Peter confirmed. “That combined with the turnover in people from two military bases and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, we do a very good sales volume each year. And the economy here will be getting a bump,” he added. “With Eielson’s (AFB) new F-35 stealth fighter jet production coming to Fairbanks, that means thousands of new jobs and money coming into the economy. So, business should be really good for the foreseeable future.”
“We’re the northernmost La-z-boy gallery in the U.S., and in the coolest city,” he added, tongue in cheek.
By the end of our conversation, I learned so much about this member store, and about Peter Beaver. For example, Peter came to Alaska 26 years ago and has been with Sadler’s for 25 of those years. Before that, he was a golf pro in Washington state. So, Peter, if you’re reading this, we’ve got a golf event coming to Idaho’s Circling Raven Golf Club on September 19, 2019. So, thaw out your golf clubs, ‘cause we’d sure love to see you there representing Sadler’s Home Furnishings.
I was so glad I reached out to Sadler’s because it put me in touch with a member that we don’t get the chance to meet with face to face. And, when I say ‘member’ I mean the folks on the floor. Sure, the owner is our first point of contact, but we serve every level of professional within the store.
Did you know that your member benefits have perks that extend to your employees’ needs as well, such as our Sherwin-Williams, Office Depot, and Best Buy programs? We’re at your service.
The Home Furnishings Association wants to connect with you where you are, and wherever you want to go, we’ll help you get there.