Brothers' persistence pays off for furniture store.Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard
As a kid, David Fendrich played hide and seek among the sofas, beds and dining room tables at Brenner's Furniture, while his parents, Nathan and Beatrice Fendrich, presided over the family business.
Now, with his older brother, Jack, David runs the place. In the past six years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time two have transformed the showroom and increased sales. They've done it while keeping their store in downtown Eugene during a time when other merchants fled to malls or gave up and closed their doors.
In the past 1 1/2 years, the brothers' persistence has paid off. The Fendrichs saw a 30 percent increase in sales during that period, David Fendrich said. The two attribute the growth to a veteran sales staff working as a team, fast turnaround on orders and deliveries and new products that attract buyers.
That's no small feat, considering the state of the economy, both nationally and locally.
Furniture retail sales have been flat since 2001, with just a few retailers reporting 3 percent growth during the past three years, said Mike Pierce, spokesman for the National Home Furnishings furnishings
the extra type or quantity of hair on the head, tail, ears or legs, specified for a particular breed. For example, the feathers in setters, the beard in Bearded collies, the eyebrows in Schnauzers. Association, a nonprofit A corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive.
Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit corporations are created according to state law. trade group.
"Somebody with 30 percent growth anytime, that's phenomenal, but in this economy, I think that's incredible," Pierce said.
Jack and David Fendrich represent the third generation of a family of merchants who have had a presence in downtown Eugene going back to 1926.
That's when Sarah and Karl Fendrich, Latvian immigrants and Nathan's parents, opened the Eugene Bargain Store at 206 W. Eighth Ave., kitty-corner to the family's current location.
In those days, the shop sold secondhand goods. The 1929 Eugene phone directory lists this ad for the Fendrichs' store: "JUNK WANTED: Furniture, Rags, Sacks, Metal, Tools, Clothing - For Highest Prices Call Us."
But tragedy struck the Fendrich family in 1936, when Karl Fendrich died in a truck and train collision. Nathan was only 2 years old at the time.
Two years later, his mother married Jack Brenner, who moved the store a half-block away and made some merchandising changes.
The store became Brenner's Hardware and Furniture, a joint effort of both his parents that thrived well into the 1950s before undergoing its next metamorphosis metamorphosis (mĕt'əmôr`fəsĭs) [Gr.,=transformation], in zoology, term used to describe a form of development from egg to adult in which there is a series of distinct stages. . By 1956, under pressure from national chains such as Sears, Jack Brenner dropped the sale of tools.
"As hardware faded, furniture became more and more important," Nathan said. He stepped into the family business in 1960, having served in the Army from 1953 to 1956, then working in furniture stores in Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. , New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden .
Nathan slowly took on more management work and by 1965, his parents eased back their involvement in the store. But they never quite gave it up, Nathan said. It was only after they died - Jack in 1985 and Sarah in 1986 - that Nathan took over.
Through those years, he had considerable help from his wife, Beatrice, whom he married in 1974 and whose son Jack by a previous marriage he adopted.
"He'd call up and say, 'Get down here, we're busy,' ' she said. And off she'd go. She'd do whatever needed doing - answering phones, doing the bookkeeping bookkeeping, maintenance of systematic and convenient records of money transactions in order to show the condition of a business enterprise. The essential purpose of bookkeeping is to reveal the amounts and sources of the losses and profits for any given period. , buying furniture accessories such as mirrors.
"From time to time I also had to run the office, so I was always more or less there," she said.
Nathan plays down his business skills, but acknowledges a talent for buying furniture at a good price that he could turn around and sell.
As an independent businessman, he could make snap decisions that national chain store managers couldn't, such as accepting factory overstock o·ver·stock
tr.v. o·ver·stocked, o·ver·stock·ing, o·ver·stocks
To stock more of (something) than necessary or desirable.
An excessive supply.
Verb 1. on a moment's notice.
"I had the flexibility to maneuver," he said.
And he had a sense of what would sell, keeping what he called "buying errors" low, which meant fewer unpopular sofas and chairs hanging around for long periods or being sold at a huge discount.
David, now 25, remembers his dad as an extremely hard worker who was at the store seven days a week.
Son Jack entered the business when he was 20, in his third year of college at the University of Oregon The University of Oregon is a public university located in Eugene, Oregon. The university was founded in 1876, graduating its first class two years later. The University of Oregon is one of 60 members of the Association of American Universities. , where he was working on a business degree.
But he got no special treatment from his parents. They put him to work delivering furniture, and it was several months before he was allowed onto the sales floor.
He got so engrossed en·gross
tr.v. en·grossed, en·gross·ing, en·gross·es
1. To occupy exclusively; absorb: A great novel engrosses the reader. See Synonyms at monopolize.
2. in the work, he didn't go back to finish his degree.
"I saw the potential of the business to be so much more with my involvement," Jack said.
Under Nathan, the store was famous for its variety of merchandise on site. The showroom was wall-to-wall furniture with narrow aisles.
Jack wanted to widen the aisles and improve the store ambiance am·bi·ance also am·bi·ence
The special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment: "The noir ambience is dominated by low-key lighting . . . to attract more customers.
Nathan, recalling those days, laughed.
"I used to say, 'I can't sell aisles!' ' he said.
In the mid-'80s, the store was still stuck in the dark ages, technologically. There were only two phone lines and no computers. The place hadn't been remodeled in years.
Nathan resisted change, especially the change to computers, he said.
"I always kept the stock in my head," he said.
The store wasn't even air conditioned, making it a sauna sauna
Bath in steam from water thrown on heated stones. Known in ancient times in various places, saunas are most closely identified with the Finnish people, who made saunas a national tradition. in the summer. Nathan tried turning that into a plus, citing it as the reason his customers got such good deals.
But Jack pushed him to modernize mod·ern·ize
v. mo·dern·ized, mo·dern·iz·ing, mo·dern·iz·es
To make modern in appearance, style, or character; update.
To accept or adopt modern ways, ideas, or style. , and he gave in, trusting his son.
"I knew he was doing a better job. The world had changed. I was right for my time, but he is right for his time," Nathan said.
Six years ago, Nathan realized it was time for the younger generation to take over, and he retired.
Beatrice still works occasionally at the store, spending on average about five hours a week there, much less than the 30 or so hours she put in at one time, but enough to help out where she's needed.
In 1997, David came on board, beginning work on the delivery side of the business at age 19.
But there was no guarantee the sons would be successful, said Jerry Bowden, a retired J.C. Penney manager who counsels small-business owners locally.
Selling furniture is highly competitive, with national chains and local businesses vying vy·ing
Present participle of vie.
vying vie for customer dollars, Bowden said.
"Passing it down doesn't always mean success. Sometimes, when the children are handed something on a golden platter One of the disks in a hard disk drive. Each platter provides a top and bottom recording surface. There may be only one or several platters in a drive with each platter having its own pair of read/write heads. See magnetic disk. , they don't have the same work ethic work ethic
A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.
a belief in the moral value of work as the parents," he said.
On the plus side, family-owned retailers often have a better track record for longevity of sales staff, which allows them to give better service.
"Seasoned veterans can welcome customers by name," Bowden said. "In today's world of computers and lack of personal contact, people welcome that."
Nathan said his sons surpass him in business acumen acumen Astuteness, perception, perspicacity .
The store has been remodeled, moving from mass displays of furniture to attractive vignettes - settings that allow customers to see furniture in a design context.
The brothers also have chosen a less top-down management style in the store.
In his day, Nathan had humorous cards made up naming himself as "Exalted ex·alt·ed
1. Elevated in rank, character, or status.
2. Lofty; sublime; noble: an exalted dedication to liberty.
But behind the humor humor, according to ancient theory, any of four bodily fluids that determined man's health and temperament. Hippocrates postulated that an imbalance among the humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) resulted in pain and disease, and that good health was was the fact that the decision-making was his.
Jack and David favor a team approach with employees entrusted with management decisions, everyone encouraged to bring their creative ideas to the job and everybody sharing the hard work.
"David and I will not ask any employee to do something that we wouldn't do ourselves," Jack said.
That's why you'll find them sweeping the walk in front of the store or throwing out the trash, he said.
It's too early to say whether the store will be handed down to the next generation of Fendrichs. Neither Jack nor David have children, yet. But Jack, at 39, has his eye on retirement in the next 10 to 15 years. With David so much younger, maybe he'll wind up being the "fourth generation."
On that question, his younger brother Wiki is aware of the following uses of "'Younger Brother":
"I'm not the fourth. Call me three and a half," David said.
Address: 151 W. Eighth Ave., Eugene
Owners: Jack and David Fendrich
Years in business: 65
Number of employees: 12 to 15, depending on the time of year
Family members involved in the business: Nathan and Beatrice Fendrich retired six years ago and handed it off to their sons, Jack and David Fendrich
David (left front) and Jack Fendrich took over Brenner's Furniture from their parents, Nathan and Beatrice. Beatrice occasionally still helps out at the store.