His grandfather owned a grocery store and his father owned a furniture and carpet store in Farmington, W.Va. The future governor and senator worked at both by the time he was 9 in the mid-1950s. By age 13, he rode on the delivery truck to help carry furniture and appliances into customers’ homes. At 16, “I got to put on a tie and become a salesman.”
His father’s favorite saying was, “There’s no such thing as shoppers. They’re all buyers, they just don’t know it yet.”
His first customer ducked into the store just to escape a downpour. Manchin recalled not letting him out until he made a purchase. The man bought a lamp.
Manchin said he learned three rules in retail: Know your product, compete on price and, most importantly, provide great service.
“The sweetness of low price is long forgotten while the bitterness of poor service lingers,” he said, paraphrasing an old saying. “My value was my service and the quality of my product. I have never forgotten that.”
The Democratic senator from West Virginia was one of several members of Congress addressing groups from the HFA and American Home Furnishings Alliance this week. They covered topics ranging from trade to taxes to furniture safety.
The senator was asked, since his family owned furniture and grocery stores, whether they owned the rest of Farmington, too.
“That was it,” he said, joking about his small hometown. “That and the post office.”