Hall of Fame class includes Jake Jabs

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Jake Jabs is one of four industry leaders who will be inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame during the High Point Market Oct. 20. Jabs is president and CEO of Home Furnishings Association member American Furniture Warehouse in Englewood, Colo.

The others in the Hall of Fame’s 2019 class are Clement “Clem” M. Lange, co-founder and chairman of Best Chairs Inc./Best Home Furnishings; Paul Maitland-Smith, founder of Maitland-Smith Ltd. and Theodore Alexander; and Jim McIngvale, founder and owner of Gallery Furniture.

The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation Inc., is an industry-wide organization founded to preserve its history, to celebrate exceptional individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the U.S. home furnishings industry, and to inspire a new class of innovation and leadership.

‘The best of the best in our industry’

“This year’s inductees represent the best of the best in our industry as a result of the work done by a dedicated selection committee, which is committed to thoughtfully and thoroughly researching candidates from across the industry,” David Gebhart, president of the foundation’s board of directors, said in a news release.

“Induction into the Hall of Fame is the home furnishings industry’s highest honor,” he added. “Our new honorees represent innovative approaches to retail and domestic manufacturing as well as high-end design and global sourcing.” 

The news release said this about Jabs:

“Jake Jabs, CEO of American Furniture Warehouse, is an entrepreneur who pioneered the big box home furnishings store. A top 20 retailer and one of the largest privately held companies in Colorado, he believes in competitive pricing and created his own coast-to-coast trucking fleet. A former Air Force officer, he focuses on hiring veterans, offers widespread incentive pay to employees, and spends a full day with each new hire to instill his passion for honesty, providing value and fully informing each customer with detailed product information. He has a penchant for playing guitar for store customers and appearing with a white tiger in television commercials.”

The guitar man

Jabs isn’t just noted for guitar playing; guitars helped launch him in business. He grew up on a ranch in Montana and used 30 head of cattle to secure a $3,000 loan in 1955. He bought a music store in Bozeman just as Elvis Presley-mania was sweeping the country, sold guitars and gave lessons.

His next venture was furniture. That business later took him to Colorado and eventually led to the founding of American Furniture Warehouse in 1975. Over the years, the company has grown to 14 stores throughout Colorado and Arizona with nearly 3,000 employees and more than $700 million in sales in 2018.

He founded the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University and supports the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at Colorado University in Denver.

Jabs served on the boards of directors for the Western Home Furnishings Association and National Home Furnishings Association, predecessor organizations to the HFA. In 2017, one of his Denver stores hosted HFA’s Leadership Immersion Program, where Next Generation Now members spent three days learning from AFW staff. 

Giving back to the industry

“I like to give back, I like helping others,” he explained to HFA’s Retailer NOW magazine. “This industry we’re in, it’s changing. It’s nothing like it was, say 10 years or even five years ago, and will be nothing like it is now in five years. That’s why we all need to help each other out. Everyone needs a little help now and then. I like being there for them when they need that help.”

Jabs, whose business supports many community causes, has received a long list of awards. He said he’s grateful for them all but called the Hall of Fame induction a great honor.

Responding to a question, he said he doesn’t plan to bring his guitar to the Oct. 20 event in High Point, which will feature an address by Captain Sully Sullenberger of “Miracle on the Hudson.”

But he’d be happy to borrow one.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. He writes HFA’s Policy Matters blog.

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