Matt Schewel taught in a Spanish-immersion elementary school in Durham, N.C., then worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., covering trade policy.
Finally, in May 2016, he returned home to Lynchburg, Va., and joined the business his great-great grandfather started there in 1897, Schewel Furniture Co.
“I’d always considered the furniture business as an option, given my family’s tradition,” Schewel said. “My perception was, if I wanted to try it out, now was the time.”
Schewel serves as director of store operations for the Home Furnishings Association member, which counts 50 stores in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. The job is working out so well that Schewel was honored this month by the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation as one of nine Future Leaders. Each was described in a news release as “an innovator, a leader among peers and highly engaged with the home furnishings industry.”
“I’m definitely honored to be recognized, and I’m flattered because I still feel like I’m starting out in my career and haven’t made much impact so far, but I hope to in the coming years,” he said.
He thanked his company, its employees and its corporate leadership for helping him on his path. His father, Marc, is president and CEO – the fourth generation to lead the business.
Matt Schewel has focused on preparing the company to meet new challenges.
“There have been a lot of opportunities to modernize our brand, our technology, our fulfillment structure, things like that,” he said. He’s joined a performance group with other retailers and begun to “align our operations with best practices in the industry.”
Schewel also has been active in the Home Furnishings Association and is a member of its Government Relations Action Team.
“With my background, public policy and trade policy are definitely strong interests of mine,” he said. “I didn’t expect it would be something I would still be involved with, but it sort of worked out that way. I still have that expertise and interest to pursue that, which is why I’m trying to stay involved.”
Last November, Schewel was featured in an article about tariffs in the online news site Politico.
The additional import taxes imposed by the Trump administration in its trade conflict with China could force his company to raise prices or seek other suppliers, Schewel said.
While issues like that present business headaches, Schewel has found his move to Lynchburg from Washington has provided a better work-life balance. He and his wife have two children, ages 1 and 4. He may be in his third career, but he hopes it’s his last, and that his kids will grow up in the same small-town environment that he enjoyed.
The other Future Leaders designated by the foundation are Suzanne Guy of Prestige Arts & Art Trends, Jay Lorenzo of AICO, Jessica Norby of Artiste Furniture, Kayla Wallace of FurnitureDealer.net, Ashley Childers of Emporium Home, Jason Phillips of Phillips Collection, Troy Pittenger of Norwalk Furniture and Shane Pohlman of Nebraska Furniture Mart.