Nestled alongside U.S. Highway 60, Hometown Furniture Co. Inc. has called Rogersville home for the entirety of its 20-year existence.
All but the very first year of operation has been at 201 Helena St., where the furniture store moved in 2000. A year prior, Larry and Ann Henry started the business, with their teenage son David helping out from day one. The youngster now co-owns the company with his dad, who is now semiretired and no longer involved in daily operations.
David Henry recalls thinking his parents were “crazy” for wanting to start a furniture company, as neither had experience in retail business ownership. Their background was in gardening and the outdoors. Ann ran the master gardener program in Wichita, Kansas, and Larry worked for 32 years with the Soil Conservation Service before both retired and moved the family to Rogersville in 1992 to be near their first grandchild.
“This was definitely not a first project for them,” David Henry says, noting his parents sold antiques and used furniture for a few years in the 1990s before starting Hometown Furniture. “It was for me, though.”
Details of determination
Henry says his mom, who died in January 2010, was determined to disprove naysayers who didn’t think a small furniture retailer could survive in Rogersville. Twenty years later, he says that determination exists in him.
“She got told ‘no’ a lot – that this would never work,” he says. “So I’m the chip on my shoulder kind of guy. I want to prove it. There’s still a lot of people who don’t think it’s going to work.”
The store sells an assortment of furniture and home furnishings, including, sofas, sectionals, mattresses, recliners, desks, dining tables, rugs and lamps. However, not content to only sell furniture, Henry says his mom had the idea to add a gift shop in 2002 and the Garden Tea Room in 2003. The tea room, which is connected to the furniture store in a converted three-bedroom house, serves sandwiches, soups, salads and dessert.
“She really was the visionary behind it, and dad and I were the workhorses,” Henry says of the furniture store, gift shop and tea room.
Declining to disclose investment costs into the business ventures or annual company revenues, Henry says Hometown Furniture has been slowly growing since 2012.
The store’s growth is a reflection of industry trends. According to trade publication Furniture Today, U.S. furniture and bedding sales increased 2.9 percent last year to $111.4 billion from $108.2 billion in 2017.
Passage of time
Since he’s been active in the business, Henry says he’s done whatever work needed – be it selling or delivering furniture, bussing tables in the tea room and even cleaning the bathroom.
“That’s how my family raised me and that’s how we do it around here,” he says. “My parents made me work since I was 14. So now I’m 37, and it’s been a long road. But celebrating 20 years is crazy.”
In those two decades, Henry says buyers’ spending habits have changed, with some choosing to shop online rather than visiting brick-and-mortar stores. However, that trend hasn’t been reflected in his business, he says, estimating e-commerce contributes less than 5 percent to the company’s annual sales.
Henry says the store tries to obtain furniture inventory from Missouri manufacturers and distributors, such as Restonic in Springfield and Campbell Mattress Co. in Cape Girardeau, as well as products from Croft Bedding Co. in Joplin.
Sales representative Mike Guest has supplied Hometown Furniture with Campbell mattresses and Southern Motion recliners for three years after providing Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. products to the store for 12 years. The store currently has five recliners and six sofas on the showroom floor supplied by the companies Guest represents. Declining to disclose the amount of business he conducts with Hometown Furniture annually, Guest says the store places orders every one to two weeks.
Among the Southern Motion products are a line of recliners and sofas dubbed SoCozi, which offer air massage, heat and lumbar built in. Henry says recliners run $1,000-$1,500, and sofas start at $2,000.
“Being that we’ve been in a business relationship for this long, it makes it easy for me to come in and say, ‘this is selling or this is selling’ and there are pictures and dimensions to go over with him,” Guest says, noting the sofas and recliners have options for 300 fabrics and 35 leathers. “That’s the key to the reps. We come in and we try to help them put on the floor what sells.”
Focus on home
Even as Henry keeps his focus on making sales inside, he says attention also will be paid later this year to the outside of the building. Most of the work will be cosmetic, replacing over 30 rose bushes that had to be removed when the Missouri Department of Transportation made improvements to Highway 60 from 2014-2016.
The showroom also is set for a redesign, he says, adding he films Facebook Live videos in the store most every Friday to spotlight products to customers. He says social media is a way to put his face out there for customers and make them not feel intimidated to come in and potentially spend hundreds of dollars on a furniture purchase.
“I want everybody who walks through those doors to have the best experience possible,” he says. “That’s what’s kept us going over 20 years.”
Edd Akers, Rick Huffman, Tracy Kimberlin and April McDonough participate in the discussion.
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