HFA Insights: Howell award says ‘the industry believes in us’

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Photo shows the three owners of Howell Furniture

Howell Furniture has been named Retailer of the Year for 2019 by the Home Furnishings Association. The award was presented Jan. 6 to owners Wade Witt, Shawn Hanley and Tom Schwaab in their Beaumont store by Mark Schumacher, executive vice president of the HFA.

[Watch: HFA Facebook live at Howell Furniture]

Howell, which also operates stores in Nederland and Lake Charles, La., was the winner in the large retailer category, or those with more than 50 employees. It was chosen from a field of finalists, most much larger, by a panel of furniture industry judges.

The company was founded in Beaumont by W. Thurman Witt in 1959. Witt hired Schwaab as a warehouse manager in 1980.

“I stayed around because I worked for a man who 100 percent believed in me,” Schwaab said Monday. “That means a lot to me, and that’s how we treat our employees. So, to win this award is beyond special. It tells me the industry believes in us.”

Wade Witt and Hanley are grandchildren of the founder and third-generation owners.

“I think my grandfather would be proud of us today,” Hanley said, “but he wasn’t a sentimental, sappy kind of guy. He’d be happy, but then he’d say, ‘OK, now let’s get back to selling furniture.’”

Hanley said her grandfather, who died in 2002, was so humble he didn’t even want the store named after him, so he came up with the name Howell.

‘Every employee is being honored’

“It’s a wonderful award, but not just for me,” she said. “Every employee from our three stores is being honored today.”

Picture shows Ted Dailey
Ted Dailey

Wade Witt said applying for the award provided “a chance for us to step back from the day-to-day running of the store and see that we’ve built a legacy for our family and our employees.”

Ted Dailey has worked for Howell Furniture in Beaumont for 29 years. He said he knew after just his first year on the job that his employer was special when his brother in Arkansas died. “Tom (Schwaab) pulled his own credit card out of his wallet and told me to take the week off and go to Arkansas. That’s the kind of company this is,” Dailey said.

In presenting the award, Schumacher noted Howell’s commitment to making customers happy.

“What a great thing to think about, to make a customer happy,” Schumacher said. “That means they’re walking out of here not just making a transaction but walking out of here feeling really good about the experience.”

Howell serves its communities

Howell also has a long record of serving its community. That was never more important than in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019, when so many Gulf Coast residents lost their homes or possessions. Howell Furniture provided food, water, supplies, posted emergency updates on its social media channels and committed to long-term recovery efforts for customers and other residents.

[Howell Furniture steps up for Beaumont]

“The philanthropy that this company has done in times of need in this community is spectacular,” Schumacher observed.

Speaking for the owners, Hanley said the company is “truly, truly honored for this.” She recalled her grandfather’s belief that, “If you go to work every day, you provide a good service at a good price and be fair to people in your community, if you do what you say you’ll do and take care of your community, you’ll be successful. That’s what we live by every day and how we run our company.”

[HFA names award winners: Howell, Brakenridge, Crowley, Bright]

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