Anna Ferguson didn’t need that phone call before Thanksgiving telling her that her store, Brakenridge Furniture in Ferriday, La., was the winner of the HFA’s 2019 Retailer of the Year award for stores with less than 50 employees.
She learned she was a winner just by filling out the application. “There was something about putting our accomplishments down on paper that made me step back and realize just how far we’ve come as a business,” said Ferguson. In fact, after filling out the form, Ferguson gathered her employees around so she could remind them of everything they’d accomplished over the past three years.
It was a long talk.
“By the end, everybody was proud of themselves, proud of how far we’d come, so, in a way, we were already winners whether we won (the award) or not,” she said.
Sorry, Ferguson has no plans of returning the award. It provided some much-needed validation to everything Brakenridge accomplished in recent years. “Kind of like the cherry on top of everything good,” she said.
In the past two years, Brakenridge has revamped its way of doing business. The company no longer keeps its business records in a (we kid you not) ledger. Every new sale is handled digitally after Ferguson revamped every aspect of the store’s sales and record-keeping.
Carrying its own paper
One thing that hasn’t changed is Brakenridge’s commitment to its community. Brakenridge has always been there for neighbors who might have been between jobs, families overwhelmed by hospital bills, or single moms with three jobs. Sometimes that hard-luck story included the color of your skin.
Gene Brakenridge, Anna’s father, opened his furniture store in the segregated South in 1961. At the time, financing was not usually available to African Americans. Stores providing financing were not necessarily fair or honest with minority customers, either.
“Financing companies wouldn’t touch these folks, but Dad always believed in helping people regardless of what they looked like or where they lived, so he financed them himself,” said Ferguson. “He always said that’s part of doing business in a small town. Helping others – that’s his legacy.”
Winning the award won’t change the way Brakenridge does business. “I think just the opposite,” said Ferguson. “I think this proves that we’re doing things right. We’re only going to get better from this.”