When you run a furniture store, it’s not always great to hear from government. It wasn’t great last spring when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered most businesses in the state to close as the coronavirus was spreading – mainly in the New York City area.
“They shut the doors, they really did,” said Bill Grace, owner of Home Furnishings Association member Grace Furniture in the upstate town of Marcy, far from Gotham.
So, it was a pleasant surprise recently when the local state assemblywoman, Marianne Buttenschon, called. She wanted to honor Grace Furniture for celebrating its 80th anniversary. She presented a citation from the state recognizing the business as an “illustrious establishment” that has made “substantial contributions to the vitality of its communities.”
Several days later, Grace was still amazed.
“It’s the first I’ve seen of anything like that,” he said. “It is framed and out front.”
Buttenschon has known Grace’s daughter June since their children went to school together. But she learned about the Grace Furniture milestone from an article published in the Observer-Dispatch newspaper in nearby Utica.
The story noted that when Grace’s parents, Frank and Stella, began the business in a garage in 1940, they primarily sold appliances, with some furniture on the side. Shortages of metal during World War II led them to concentrate on furniture.
‘We’re knocking last year’s figures dead’
A different crisis now has restricted furniture supplies. Some of his suppliers say they can’t fill orders until January, Grace said. Others, like Hallagan Furniture of Newark, N.Y., promised December delivery of orders placed by Oct. 9.
Customers are buying, said Grace. “Business has been really, really good ever since we reopened. We’re knocking last year’s figures dead. People are coming in and putting purchases on their credit cards, paying by check, a lot of credit cards. They want it now.”
Or they want it by Christmas, which means Grace must work with vendors that can meet that deadline.
“We try to keep as much in stock as we can to satisfy customers because they want it now,” he emphasized.
Having worked in the family business since his father’s death in 1960, Grace understands the one unchanging rule of retail: “You want to make the customer happy.”
He just wasn’t expecting a politician to make him happy.
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