Montgomery's Furniture celebrates 125th year
By JANE UTECHT, Staff Reporter
Everyone's heard the slang expression "older than dirt," for something that's been around a long time.
The fifth and upcoming sixth generation of Montgomery's Furniture family includes (front) Clark and Connie Sinclair, Eric and Neala Sinclair and their children Kyan and Giselle.
Montgomery's Furniture of Madison is not older than dirt, but it has been around a long time. In fact, it's been a fixture in this part of the state for well over a century. Because of this milestone, the store is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a Chamber mixer on Monday from 5-6:30 p.m. at 747 S. Washington Ave.
One hundred twenty-five years is older than the state, and most businesses in the country. Forbes Magazine notes that the average business today lasts 15 years. At 125, Montgomery's joins an elite group that includes household names like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. A Japanese Hotel, Kisiyama Onsen Keiunkan is reportedly the oldest business in the world, opening its doors in 705.
Montgomery's Owner Clark Sinclair knows this his family business is exceptional.
"Not very many (family-run businesses) survive the first generation," Sinclair said.
The Sinclair family is fifth generation for Montgomery's, which founder George H. Montgomery opened in Mitchell in 1888. The furniture store expanded to Howard, and at a time when Madison had no furniture store, Montgomery's moved to Egan Ave. in a building formerly owned by the Hallenbecks.
By the time Clark Sinclair came into the family business, it was still a small operation.
"When I started there were four of us, two guys who did deliveries and installed flooring, an office gal and myself," he said.
Then things began to change, and growth and expansion became the trend for Montgomery's. First the store expanded to include a factory outlet on SD-34 in Madison. Then in 1997, the Sinclairs added a Sioux Falls location, opening a store on 41st St. that they expanded to 38,000 square feet. In September 2002, the Sinclairs consolidated their two Madison locations into one, a 50,000-square-foot building on S. Washington.
Sinclair said the Egan Ave. store's three floors were inconvenient and neither location was big enough, so instead of running two inadequate stores, they consolidated into one location.
Earlier this year, the company's third location opened in the former Econo Foods business at Watertown. This is now the company's largest location.
The expansion continues, as they recently purchased Traditions Furniture in Sioux Falls and a restaurant next to the 41st St. location. This fall they will remodel and build a connecting structure to combine the operations.
While some might feel running a store with three large locations could be unwieldy, Sinclair said it actually adds efficiency with advertising, managment and buying power.
"In today's world, we have to be efficient and competitive. That's required if you're going to stay in business," he said, adding thatcustomers want more selection, more service and more value.
It also means more employees. After Sinclair's early days with four people working, Montgomery's now employs almost 90 people, including 30 experienced designers who work with customers to choose everything from furniture to flooring to window treatments.
Sinclair's entire family is involved, including his wife Connie, and their son Eric and daughter-in-law Neala.
"They are the first female family members active in the business," Sinclair said.
Gender notwithstanding, that makes five generations in the business; generation number six is eager to get to work, as Eric's young son "wants to go to work with Daddy," Sinclair said.
No matter the generation, the Sinclairs' focus on customer service will not waiver, and they will continue to look at new technology and more efficient ways of doing things better.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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