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Fourth generation joins Smith Furniture as it hails 70 years
Cindy Klepper - Thursday, October 4, 2012 7:51 AM
A family business is celebrating the beginning of its 70th year at the same time it welcomes a fourth generation into the fold.
"The business was ingrained in me," says Jordan Smith.
Smith recently joined his dad, Ed Smith, and his grandfather, Robert "Bob" Smith, at Smith Furniture - a downtown Huntington business founded by Jordan's great-grandfather, Everett Smith, in 1943.
The store, first located on Warren Street and offering used furniture, came about at the suggestion of Everett's wife, Lillie, according to family history.
Everett and Lillie had moved from Wabash to Huntington to run a grocery store at State and Swan streets they had bought. They later purchased a resort at Silver Lake, which kept Everett hopping during the summer. Understandably, boredom set in when winter rolled around.
Lillie "strongly suggested" to her husband that he find something else to keep him busy. The result of that "suggestion" was Smith Furniture.
Bob joined his dad at the furniture store when he was 16. After serving a stint in Korea with the United States Army, he became manager of the business.
Bob moved the store to its current location, 312 N. Jefferson St., and added new furniture, appliances and, eventually, flooring. Smith Furniture now concentrates only on new furniture and accessories.
Bob retired from day-to-day involvement in the store about 1992, but remains "very important to the business," Ed says.
Ed and Jordan were both about 14 when they started helping out at Smith Furniture. Ed's brothers Lyle and Todd were also involved in the business: Lyle has retired and Todd is a partner at Crain Ford in Warren.
"I would mostly work in the back room, unpack furniture," Ed says of his early days in the business. The school bus, he says, would drop him off at the store after school. "When I was 15, I started selling some, waiting on customers."
"I didn't have a school bus; I had to walk," Jordan says good-naturedly. Jordan, too, spent his early days on the job unpacking furniture; when he turned 16, he graduated to making deliveries.
Jordan chose to start his career in the field of youth ministry, serving two years in Detroit and three years in Elkhart. As his family grew - he has a two-year-old and a six-week-old - he decided to return to his roots, and his young family is already involved in the business.
"My two-year-old will pick out fabric," Jordan says.
"We're working on the fifth generation," Ed notes. But, he adds, "I'll be around a few more years."
Picking out fabric is something that would have been unheard of in the early days of the business, when the choices were gray or rose beige.
"It was more basic things," Bob says. "People would come in and say, ‘I want a sofa' or ‘I want a chair.' You'd sell one piece at a time.
"Now, it's more decorating."
Today's shoppers want to coordinate colors and patterns in their rooms, Ed says.
One thing hasn't changed, though.
"We still run it as a family business," Ed says.
"Day to day, we're still here serving Huntington, like when great-grandpa started it," Jordan adds.
Ed credits the family's Christian values with the success the business has found.
"This has always been God's business," he says. "That's why we're blessed to be able to carry it on to the third and fourth generations."
"We're still here, helping people get set up like dad and grandpa did years ago," Jordan says.