At Daw’s Home Furnishings, the apples never fall far from the tree
For the record, it was never a given any of Yazbik Daw’s eight children would end up selling furniture. There was no fatherly edict that they would follow in their dad’s footsteps at Daw’s Home Furnishings, the store he created in El Paso, Texas. Oh, sure, the Daw children had to work at the family store growing up—a little sweeping, a little selling, a little bit of everything, really—but once they graduated from college dad made it clear they were free to choose their own course through life. No pressure, no guilt. Except for many of the kids there was no way they’d choose anything else.
Wade Daw, the oldest of Yazbik’s children, loved every part of the job at what was then known as S.O.S. TV and Appliance Company—whether it was talking to customers on the showroom floor or unloading furniture in the warehouse. “Every day was different,” Wade remembers. “You didn’t know what would come up from one day to the next.”
Wade’s decision was sealed when he was 14 and happened to sell three—count ‘em three!—color television sets on a summer day in 1968. When the $75 commission showed up in the following week’s paycheck, there was no looking back. “I was in,” Wade says.
Teresa Daw Hicks, the youngest, knows just how her big brother felt. “Certainly, there was a sense of dedication and loyalty to our father, but you know what? It was also fun being there together as a family. I never thought of working anywhere else—still don’t.”
That’s good news for furniture shoppers in and around El Paso, Texas, who have been loyal to Daw’s Home Furnishings for 67 years and counting. Today the store’s employee roster looks very much like a family tree. In addition to Wade and Teresa, Mark Daw, their brother, and his children Bryan and Stephanie, work at the store.
“We like to keep things in the family,” jokes Wade, most of whose nine children worked at the store at one time or another.
The roots to that family tree trace back to Yaz Daw, an immigrant from Lebanon, who got his start selling household items door to door in Texas before opening a television and appliance company in 1951. Within a few years color TVs were invented and the demand for them took off. Daw and three partners were quick to recognize the trend and opened two more stores in the El Paso area. As color TVs grew in popularity, the company boomed and went on to create several branches in town. At one point, S.O.S. was the largest TV and appliance dealership in El Paso.
Eventually, as big box stores like FedMart and Gibson’s Discount Center started selling more appliances, Yaz Daw could feel the pinch. He started testing furniture in his stores, adding a few pieces at first. The results were quick and positive. “When Dad saw he could make 40 points on a sofa instead of 25 points on a washing machine, there was no turning back,” Wade remembers. “He was all in.”
In 1969, Yaz, his wife, Rosalie, and their growing family started their own company, Daw’s S.O.S. TV Appliance and Furniture Company. The company still sold appliances but began migrating to low-end promotional furniture. In 1984, Yaz changed the name of his store to Daw’s Home Furnishings to reflect the growing furniture side of the business. By then the entire Daw clan was showing up to work either in the morning or after school, earning and learning as they worked.
Most of Yaz and Rosalie’s children attended the University of Texas at El Paso, where they earned business or marketing degrees—essential skills for running a furniture store. But long before they entered a college classroom, the Daw children learned at the feet of their father.
“He was very patient with us—with all his employees, but especially with us,” Teresa recalls. “Dad wanted to make sure we knew all sides of the business.”
Wade remembers taking business classes at UTEP and feeling a disconnect from what the professor was teaching and what he was learning from his other professor, Dad, at the family store. “The text books didn’t always reflect reality,” he says. “I learned almost as much in a summer working at the store than in all those business classes.”
“Dad was a jack of all trades,” Teresa says. “He had a high school education but he did everything from selling to advertising and marketing and he taught eight kids how to run a business. He certainly knew what he was doing.”
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One thing Yaz Daw made sure to teach his children was how to treat customers. “We’re a family store and if you buy from us, we’re going to treat you like family,” Wade says. It’s not uncommon for a customer to have a problem with an appliance that’s out of warranty, and for Daw’s to fix it anyway.
“We never tell a customer, ‘no’,” says Wade. “The realistic consumer doesn’t expect free furniture, but they do expect to be treated with respect and appreciation. I know I do. We try to give them that every day here because we know they can easily go somewhere else.”
The same philosophy of treating the customer right also applies to the Daw’s Home Furnishings employees. The family, devout Catholics, still closes the store on Sundays, one of the busiest days of the week for selling furniture. “That’s just part of our personal values,” Teresa says. “We want to spend time with our families and we want that for our employees, too. (Closing on Sundays) might be an inconvenience to some in our community, but I think they respect our decision.”
Daw’s Home Furnishings long ago did away with selling promotional furniture. Today the store carries a wide variety of lines—Thomasville, Broyhill, Lane, Flexsteel, Vaughan Bassett and Jonathan Lewis to name a few. The product isn’t the only change at Daw’s. After many years of the status quo, the store is revamping its website to reflect its commitment to the growing Millennial population in and around El Paso. The store is working with Micro D, Furniture First and BrandSource on the new site.
Wade says the new site, which he hopes will launch sometime this month, will allow shoppers to view everything the store offers. “We are really a mom-and-pop operation, and I mean that in a good way. But we need to start meeting the needs of our community. When you factor in the entire metroplex of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, we have a market of about two million people. A lot of those two million are Millennials and we need to start thinking about how we are going to sell to them.”
Adds Teresa: “We had to learn how to sell to Baby Boomers, figure out how they purchase. This is no different. We need to start selling the way they purchase.”
That means change is coming, again, to the furniture store that was once an appliance store. Wade says his family is ready for the challenge.
“Father was assertive,” he says. “He was not slow to move to make the right choice. We may not be fast, but we’re getting there and just like Dad we’re committed to succeeding.”
What HFA Means to Me
Our industry is changing fast. Things are not the same as they were even THREE years ago. HFA helps identify the market changes for the independent furniture dealer. They are like family, always there to lend a helping hand when needed. Let’s face it…we all need a little help sometimes. The association is one of my most favorite sources for education, purchasing and merchandising; it also has many time- and money-saving services.