When HFA member Brad Fitterer learned his family store, Fitterers Furniture in Ellensburg, Wash., would be honored by Seattle Business Magazine at the publication’s annual awards ceremony recently, he figured he would pick up a plaque—maybe a pat on the back—and head home.
So when magazine officials named Fitterers the best small business in Seattle for 2016, Fitterer was stunned. “Beyond stunned, actually,” Fitterer said. “There were so many good, solid businesses we were competing against. “To come away with the gold medal was really quite an honor.”
Judges examined more dozens of small businesses in the Seattle area based on their customer service, excellence of operation and community involvement before narrowing the field to three businesses—with Fitterer’s Furniture coming out on top.
Fitterer believes his company’s community involvement gave his business an advantage over the other businesses in the running. The store is constantly opening its doors to groups and events in the area. Fitterers is a 98-year-old, three-story building that hosts events such as Jazz in the Valley and Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering. The latter is a night of cowboy poetry and western music. The night before the awards banquet, Fitterers was busy hosting Girls Night Out. More than 200 men and women show up at the monthly event to check out some of the many home-based businesses in the Kittitas Valley.
“I totally believe in community involvement,” Fitterer says. “Some people say I’m passionate about it, and that’s probably true. When you have a small business in a small town—or even in a big town—you really have to give back to the people who have given to you. I really believe that’s what makes a person whole.”
Established in 1896, Fitterer’s Furniture has its roots in the founding of Ellensburg. Brothers Phillip and Frank Fitterer came to Yakima from Minnesota in the late 1880s and then moved to booming Ellensburg to work for the pioneering Horton House hotel. When it closed in 1896, they began operating a secondhand store to sell the hotel’s furnishings as well as excess supplies sold by contractors on the railroads. By 1909, the Fitterers had built a large brick building to house a new store. Big window displays attracted locals shopping for home furnishings. Hot coffee around a potbellied stove provided added inducement. Today, the store has a mattress studio and an interior design space and Fitterer’s delivers its furnishings statewide.
In the late 1980s, fourth-generation descendants Brad and Jon Fitterer bought out Jon’s dad, Joe. In 2011, they agreed that Brad would acquire Jon’s share. Brad Fitterer now operates the store while his wife, Connie, serves as a corporate officer. Both encourage employees to serve nonprofits and community organizations to continue the Fitterer legacy.