Then & Now: Five Decades of Service
In 2019, many Furnitureland South employees who celebrated the company’s 25th anniversary are now celebrating its 50th anniversary. The world’s largest furniture store has gone through a lot of changes since these employees were hired — and each employee played a role in the store’s growth.
As the longest working employee at Furnitureland South, Don Greeson said that the physical furniture store we see today, which includes the Mart building, Showroom building, Outlet center and Distribution Center, is nothing like the one he knew in 1983.
The first place Greeson reported for duty was at the South Main Street campus in a little gray building across from where Furnitureland On Main stands today. Since he began working in that showroom 35 years ago, he said, “It’s been unbelievable to watch Furnitureland South grow step by step.”
As we grew in size, we also grew in number. Greeson said that since day one his motivation for returning to work every day has been the relationships he’s formed with people, including Furnitureland South’s founder Darrell Harris. “He was a pal,” Greeson said. “Of course, we were a very small company back then, but he was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He and his wife, Stella, saw me through some of the lowest and highest points of my life.”
In his time at Furnitureland South, Greeson has worked as a Design Consultant and a Sales Manager, but that doesn’t limit his experience. “When I got started, it was a whole different ballgame,” he said. He estimated there were 20 employees when he began and that meant that Design Consultants were expected to do much more than serve their clients. In his tenure, he has cleaned bathrooms, recorded inventory and delivered furniture all the way to Indiana.
Today, Furnitureland South is more than just a place of employment for Greeson. “It’s part of my life — that’s all I can say about it,” he said. “It’s what I do every day.”
Tony Moore joined the Furnitureland South family in 1985 and said that he enjoyed serving in whatever capacity necessary. “Sometimes we wore neckties and worked at our desks all day. Other days we wore jeans to load and drive trucks,” Moore said. “It was a simpler time back then. I mean, Darrell’s dad and mom would even stop in to say hello every now and then.”
Moore said that Darrell Harris had a strong work ethic and that he always pushed his staff to work just as hard. “Back then Darrell was very hands-on with every aspect of the business including buying showrooms during Market, designing his store’s showroom (with Stella’s help), leading a small but strong sales force and ensuring the merchandise in the warehouse was moving,” Moore said. “When Mr. Harris worked on the floor with the crew, he worked hard and worked the crew hard, too. His motto was to make the product right for the customer one way or another.”
Employees of more than 30 years have watched Jeff and Jason Harris, the now second-generation Furnitureland South owners, grow up, complete high school and graduate from college. Instead of completing small tasks around the property, Jeff now serves as Furnitureland South’s CEO and Jason has founded The Design Network, an all-in-one home design platform that offers inspiration and an e-commerce shopping experience.
In 1985, Susan Towery’s job was to merchandise the showroom floor. Towery said she remembers when Jeff and Jason Harris worked for her instead of the other way around. “When ‘the boys’ were in their teens — 16 or 17, before they graduated high school — they worked for me and helped set up for the floor like our floor design team does now,” she said. “We were a close family back then because we weren’t as large.”
Towery also recalls traveling with Furnitureland South team members, including owner Darrell Harris, to work on projects for hotels and resorts. “Basically, we would set up the hotel rooms with bedroom furniture,” she said. “It wasn’t to the same scale as Furnitureland’s contract division is now.”
Towery said it’s been amazing watching Furnitureland South grow. “I knew that it would grow, but I don’t think that I was expecting it to be as large as it is now,” she said. “It’s always changing around here. Things have changed constantly, and you just learn to go with the flow. For instance, when we worked in the building where I first started, I had to handwrite all of the price tags. Now our computer systems have made life much easier.”
She attributes Furnitureland South’s growth to the entrepreneurial attitude that the Harris’ exhibit. “I mean, Darrell had drive. He and Stella both did,” she said.
Moore said that the same drive that kick-started Furnitureland South’s growth has had an enormous impact on many people over the years. “I look back and thank the Lord for Darrell, Stella, Jeff and Jason,” he said. “They have been good for the community, as well as thousands of employees with families, over the years.”
Each of these employees was taken aback when told that their contribution to Furnitureland South has grown the company to what it is today.
“I am just one out of literally thousands of fine associates over my 34 years that have helped Furnitureland South succeed, and I’m thankful that I might have had a small part in helping achieve this kind of success,” Moore said. “Obviously, no one person can claim this kind of success. Mr. Harris placed key people at each position who handled daily issues as if they owned the business themselves. The only thing I’ve ever done here was to try to do an honest day’s work for my pay. It only takes several employees approaching things in a positive manner for everyone to succeed.”
Moore continued to say that Furnitureland South’s success today shows that God was the one directing Darrell Harris’ plan. “I know Mr. Harris would be very proud of the recent success that Jeff, Jason and their current management team have produced.”
Towery admitted she was grateful to be acknowledged, but also responded humbly and credited others with her success. “I really don’t feel that I have done anything special,” she said. “Seeing this place grow from the ground up gives me cold chills and knowing that I was able to take part in every way possible, from setting up the showrooms to labeling the Distribution Center racks, gives me great pride.”
“I’m very grateful to Darrell and Stella Harris for taking a chance on me straight out of college and giving me this experience,” Towery continued. “I miss them every time I drive on the property. I am thankful to Jeff and Jason for letting me be a part of the world’s largest furniture store. I look forward to many more years in helping to keep this company a success.”
Furnitureland South continues to grow and change to meet the demands of the market, but its commitment to its community and its customers is one characteristic that will always remain the same.