Our History as told by owner Mary Wichmann
WG&R had a furniture store in Pulaski located at 125 St. Augustine Street. The store operated there for several years until in 1963 management no longer felt that a furniture store in Pulaski would thrive. They wanted to close the store location there and move to the Fox Valley. My Dad, Doug McDermid had been working at WG&R as a salesman along with Russ LaRock who had hired Dad. When WG&R closed, Dad and Russ decided that they did not want to move. They both had started families and had children in the school district.
So, in October of 1963, with the help of many people, family members, friends, and the fine folks at Pulaski State Bank, Furnitureland, Inc. was born! Over the next several years, Furnitureland enjoyed steady growth and stayed above the national index when compared to other stores.
In 1969, a second store was opened in Clintonville, WI and was operated by Jim and LaVerne LaRock. This location lasted until 1973 when Russ, Doug and Jim decided to put all the eggs into one basket and invest in a new much larger Furnitureland. The sight of our current store at 322 E. Pulaski Street had previously been an old warehouse building that I believe we were leasing at the time. We built our store there and we also then claimed the first structure in the new industrial park that same year when we built our warehouse at 734 Markham Drive.
In late 1999, Furnitureland, Inc. became a one family owned and operated business. At the ripe old age of 67, Dad was as happy as he could be. He had a renewed energy and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with us kids, teaching us the ropes of the business.
Pat and Ken have worked at the store since they were old enough to get a work permit. But it was time to learn the buying aspects, inventory controls, trends, freight, trucking, financing, forecasting and on and on and on! I joined the store in January of 2000 as well. I had been working at Humana in DePere for 16 years and found it to be timely to come back home and join the family business and bring my expertise to the table. So much of our time those first few years was spent just talking with and listening to Dad. I could just listen to him for hours. One thing is for sure, he had earned the respect of many folks in this business.
Twice a year, we head to North Carolina for Furniture market. This is where we see what our vendors have for new merchandise coming down the line. We get to say whether we like it or not or whether we’ll but it or not. We also have to look for new vendors to replace old ones or ones that in today’s economy are going out of business.
My brother and I each got to take turns going to Market with Dad. We got to see first hand how family oriented the Furniture business is. There are father/son sales reps, there are father/son/daughter businesses, there are family owned and operated vendors (most of those have gone by the wayside and are now publicly held) but I can see why having this business stay in our family was very important to him.
The furniture business has changed with the times over history. Some of them good and some not so good. On the good side, furniture is still something that people are happy to buy and therefore, most folks are excited to come out and see us! They are in a good mood and it’s a fun time for them. Our sales staff continues to be one of the best (if not thee best) in the area! They are smart, honest and informative. They have years of experience in the industry and can put rooms together for customers better than most!
In addition the industry has tried to keep it’s prices low and competitive! I found some old ads in Dad’s office that show LaZBoy recliners on sale for $199 back in the early 1970’s…today, you can get a recliner for $299! That’s not much for inflation!
On the other hand, many of the the big family owned furniture manufacturers have gone under. Big corporations have farmed out their production work overseas and a large percentage of the wood and upholstered furniture making went with it. It has not only created problems for the workers who lost their jobs, but it also hurt us retailers. At Furnitureland, we do not like the issues dealing with imported goods and although it is difficult to become completely domestic, at this time, almost 80% of what we sell is American made!
I was recently looking back at some of the old news clippings and articles when Furnitureland was receiving some of the previously mentioned awards. In one of those articles, Dad was asked why the business had been so successful up to then. Dad’s response was simple: We are a peoples people here. We don’t put on airs or think we’re better than anyone else. We let our actions speak louder than words. We take care of our customers…and so that legacy will go on!