While the country experiences one of the worst recessions in decades, Steger’s Furniture of Pekin experienced their second-best fiscal year in 2008.
Not many businesses can say the same, especially in the furniture industry. Within the last three years, big-name stores like Leath, Bauer, Cohen’s and K’s Merchandise have all had to close their doors.
Jack Steger, president of Steger’s Furniture, believes their success is due to the fact that people like shopping locally, where service comes first. “When you buy from the big chains and the big-box stores, there is no service…every time you go in, it’s a different face,” he explained. At Steger’s, the faces have not changed much, since the business has been owned and operated by the same family for 72 years.
Jack’s grandfather, Joe, opened the business in 1937 as a paint shop right in the middle of the Great Depression. Since then, each member of the family has made their mark on the business. Joe’s son, Louis, brought in floor coverings, and Jack moved the company exclusively to furniture. With three children—two of whom are in college and will be graduating soon—he hopes to see a fourth generation enter the business someday. “It will be interesting to see which ones, if any, come into the business,” Jack mused.
When he joined the company, Jack was happy to keep up the family tradition, as well as the tradition of service. “We’ve had a lot of competitors go out of business,” he said. According to Steger, the company is able to adjust more easily because they don’t have the baggage that comes with being a chain store. “When you are really big and you try to change course, it’s like moving an aircraft carrier. It takes a while to turn that baby,” he explained. “But when you are small and nimble like us, and you want to make a decision, it’s like turning a speedboat.”
In the current recession, even some of their small, family-owned competitors have had to face the going-out-of-business sale. Having been founded during the Great Depression, Steger’s has faced difficult times before and survived. Again Steger attributes this to their adaptability, but also to his family’s decision-making process. “I’m not one for change very much. I do think about it. I don’t change just to change, but once I decide to do something different, we can do it almost immediately,” he said.
So from recession to recession, the Steger family business is still thriving, looking to out-serve the big guys and continue its tradition of adaptability and service to ride out the recession. iBi