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    Printed with the permission of the Lancaster-Eagle Gazette
    5/9/2004
     
    The 'King' of furniture closing
     


    The Eagle-Gazette Staff; tliddell@nncogannett.com


    Photo
    (E-G photos by William P. Cannon)

    A customer walks into King's Furniture on Lincoln Avenue in Lancaster on Thursday. After 97 years in business, the store will close permanently in July.

     


    Photo
     

    Dan Donahue (right), co-owner of King's Furniture in Lancaster, talks to Jerry Conkle, 61, of Logan, as Conkle shops for a new bed inside the store on Thursday.

     


    Photo
     

    Customers examine chairs in the showroom at King's Furniture in Lancaster on Thursday.

     


     

     


     

     


     

    LANCASTER -- In July, King's Furniture store closes the final chapter of a 97-year-old business.

    But quitting the furniture business isn't a bad deal for longtime business partners Dan Donahue and Dick Schleich.

    Although they are not the original owners, 74-year-old Donahue and 61-year-old Schleich, have co-owned and operated the furniture store since 1971.

    Other than serving in the military, this is practically the only profession either man has ever known. It is the only job Schleich has held.

    "Both of us are ready to retire for good," said Donahue, who's been semi-retired since 1995.

    "This business and this building have been everything we wanted it to be," said Schleich, who has continued to operate the business full time. "We're not bankrupt or anything; it's still a valuable business. We're just ready to retire."

    Signs announcing the closing were posted in the store's windows a few weeks ago. All of the furniture is on sale, and the doors are scheduled to be locked by the end of July, Donahue said.

    In addition to Donahue and Schleich, there are three employees at the store.

    Herb Tipton joined the staff 10 years ago, after retiring from a 38-year career at Anchor Hocking in 1997.

    "I'm sad I'll have to find another job," said the 62-year-old. "The atmosphere is good, and there are good people to work with. They've been very fair and have always had a good reputation."

    Tipton started out in delivery and worked his way up to sales.

    "I wish them the best, he said.

    King's Furniture has served as a staple in the community, said Bill Bickham, acting president of the Lancaster Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce.

    "We always hate to lose a business like King's in Lancaster, but we appreciate the fact that they've been here so long," Bickham said. "We hope new businesses will see it as an opportunity to move in that post and provide some new business for Lancaster."

    Getting in

    The business originally was called Rowlands and King Furniture and opened in 1907. Two brothers, Charles and Alvert Rowlands and C.L. King owned the store.

    At that time, the business was at 212-216 W. Main St.

    In 1912, the store moved to a building on Broad Street, now known as the Bank One building and remained there until the 1930s, when it moved to its current location on Lincoln Avenue.

    King eventually became the sole owner of the store. King's son, John Frances King, took over the store when he retired.

    Donahue and Schleich began working for John Frances King within a year of one another.

    Getting a job at King's Furniture store wasn't an easy feat, said Donahue, who worked for a couple of furniture stores and owned a furniture store prior to being hired at the business.

    "I came here looking for work and King needed a salesman, but he told me I was too young," Donahue said. "So I went to Totten's, another furniture store in town and stayed there for one year. When I left, there was a guy who gave me a reference and said he would talk to King for me."

    When the gentlemen went to King to recommend Donahue for the job, he was hired.

    The other guy "got the job because he was older than me," Donahue said.

    Six more years would go by before King gave in and hired Donahue. He was 32 years old.

    "Francis said you're still not old enough, but I need a salesman and he hired me," Donahue said.

    A year later, Schleich came to the store looking for a job. He was 21 years old and had just finished a stint in the Navy.

    "Francis interviewed four guys and he said he liked Dick, but he was too young," Donahue said. "I told him, let's hire Dick so we can break him in to suit ourselves; we could teach him."

    Donahue persuaded King to hire Schleich, who had never worked outside the military.

    In 1971, John Frances King decided to retire.

    "He told us if we wanted a job, we'd have to buy the business," Donahue said. "I told him there was no way we could do it. (King) said he'd fix it and set up a buy, sale agreement so we could buy it."

    Neither of King's children wanted to take over the business so it was either sell or close the doors. Donahue said King didn't want to sell it to anyone else.

    Within seven years, Donahue and Schleich paid for 100 percent of the company's stock.

    Getting out

    In the past four decades, the team has sold furniture to at least four generations of families, Donahue said.

    During that time, furniture styles have come and gone; some styles reinventing themselves.

    "That type of furniture from 1955 to 1959 is coming back," Donahue said. "It's like with your hairstyles and clothing that comes back in style."

    The business has managed to carry some of the best furniture lines in the country, Schleich said.

    Despite new furniture stores moving into town, Donahue said they've never worried about competition.

    "We've never paid any attention to our competition. We've pretty much minded our own business," he said. "We had good service and repeat service. People's kids, grandchildren and great grandchildren were coming here to shop."

    Merl and Rita Mason of Lancaster have shopped at the store for as long as the couple has been married. The couple, who will celebrate their 62nd anniversary this summer, was shopping in the store Thursday morning.

    "It's sad this store is closing down," said Rita Mason. "There isn't much left here in this town anymore. It's kind of sad when you think about it. All of the older stores seem to be closing."

    Mason said she and Merl will probably go to Logan or Columbus for furniture.

    Saying goodbye to customers has been the challenging part of closing shop, agree Schleich and Donahue.

    "There was this woman in here the other day who's bought a boatload of furniture over the years," Schleich said. "She was almost in tears, asking 'Where she would go to buy her furniture now.' "

    Donahue said this has been just as emotional for him. Ninety percent of the customers he knows by name.

    "Many of the customers are like brothers and sisters. ... I know a lot of people will miss us.

    "I've been here so long that I just love the people. I'm not going to miss the business like I will the people."

    Originally published Sunday, May 9, 2004
     

     
    Contact Us

    The Fairfield County Department of Economic Development is eager to assist you in whatever way it can.  Please contact us at the following:

    Fairfield Co. Department of Economic Development
    David R. Zak, Director
    210 E. Main Street, Room 407  
    Lancaster, OH  43130   
    (Click here for Map & Directions)      
    Phone: 740.652.1546
    Cell: 740.215.3583
    Fax: 740.687.6048
    E-Mail: dzak@co.fairfield.oh.us

    Did you know Fairfield County has over $62 million in new investment announced in 2003?

    Did you know that Fairfield County is the fourth fastest growing county in Ohio?

    Did you know that Pickerington is the fastest growing city in Ohio?

    Did you know that Lancaster is the second fastest growing city in Ohio with a population over 35,000?

    Did you know that 56% of the county (33,700) leave the county every day to work?

    Did you know that the entire county is within 1 hour of two airports?

    Did you know that county wages are 68th lowest (out of 88) in Ohio?

    Did you know that 80-90% of the taxing districts in the county are below average?