Brunson’s Furniture Center and Patio Shoppe is Henderson County’s haven for La-Z-Boy® recliners, and one of the largest outlets in the area for that premier brand.
Brunson’s Furniture Center emerged in 1924, three years before La-Z-Boy® did.
Brunson’s Owner Richie Nix runs the Patio Shoppe and Hearth Center, in a building next to the large two-floor furniture-bedding center his sister Kim Gibbs manages. As company secretary, she handles paperwork.
The store campus is at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and King Street, near Downtown Hendersonville. The next large storewide sale is about to happen, for the Fourth of July.
The business started as Brunson Furniture Co., in 1924. When D.B. Keith owned it, the Nixes’ father Richard Nix worked his way up to manager in 1987 and soon after bought the store. Nix also kept the name of Brunson, the original owner. Richard died in 2006, and son Richie succeeded him as owner.
Richie has worked in the family business since he was 12. He also worked as a licensed contractor, until buying the store. His children Cassidy and Erik Nix, who are both in college, worked in the store when in high school just as their father did. When he graduated in 1985, he worked full-time in the store. Kim has worked there full-time since 1993. She is married with two grown children, Jamie and Kasey Gibbs.
The original Brunson’s store was at Main and Third Avenue, and is now occupied by Tempo Music. Brunson’s second retail store opened in the early Seventies at 400 N. King St, called King Street Furniture Outlet. It eventually absorbed the first store, after its closing, and was renamed Brunson’s Furniture Center in 1988.
“Everything under the sun” is the store motto. Indeed, there are dozens of different La-Z-Boy® chairs and sofas, including some medical lift chairs. Brunson’s also sells bedroom sets and Sealy, Posturepedic, Restonic, Jamison and Flex-A-Bed bedding. Tropitone and Seaside Causal are among their brands of outdoor furniture and accessories.
Joyce Murdock has sold furniture for Brunson’s since 1984. She and Kim Gibbs have seen trends, and rise of chair models and features over time such as plush microfibers and thick padding. They said their top-selling La-Z-Boy® chairs include Harbor Town, which now has fully-added arms, and slim Pinnacle which comes in four colors.
Such relatively smaller chairs have risen in popularity in recent years overtaking thicker padded chairs, Gibbs figures, for fitting well into both limited space and budgets.
Comfort, smooth reclining operation and reliable quality are keys. La-Z-Boy® warrants metal parts for the lifetime of the chair. The company assembles its chairs in the United States. That is a strong selling point, Kim said. “It’s very important. People want to buy American-made. They do not want an import.”
Richie said customers are wising up and “tired of buying junk from China.” He said some foreign manufacturers have flooded the market with cheaper but sub-grade furniture, such as ones layered with “paper veneer, that looks like solid wood.” He recalls his father saying that quality matters over “sizzle, something that looks so good” but may lack worksmanship.
“Quality, service and a good price” are key ingredients. That is extra important in a growing era of Chinese imports and online sales of furniture and other items. The store’s sales have slid during the Great Recession, including the past two years, he said. Yet there are some signs the “economy is turning around.”
The number of furniture stores in Henderson County went from about 20 to a handful of family-owned ones that lasted decades including Brunson’s, Spearman, Houston, Kailin, and Harold’s.
Richie often works 12 to 14 hours a day. He feels frustrated that with the economy and sales recently down, he has had to cut staff. That has hampered the usual expediency in customer service, such as in returning calls in busier times, he said. Manufacturers are down to “skeleton crews” which delays repair service. “There’s total frustration, at times. Everyone’s understaffed,” he said. “We want people to know that we do care.”
A helpful but not pressuring sales style helps, in that regard. Kim said unlike typical chain stores, Brunson’s sales people do not get paid by commissions. “Customers have said that in other places, salesmen were following them around the store. Here, we don’t do that. We’ll answer questions. But we let people look around.” This continues a family tradition. Kim said, “to Daddy, customers came first.”
Kim said customers have varying degrees of knowing ahead what they want, but often explore options. The other day, a lady came in set on buying a stationary chair. But she liked a rocker she sat in so much she bought it instead.
Kim said it is rewarding to see someone find a chair that “fits them perfectly.” Ideally a seat width is just wider than the person using it. That brings arm rests closer in, for more arm comfort. Yet Kim noted some people buy oversized chairs, so a pet can sit with them.
For more on Brunson’s Furniture Center and Patio Shoppe, call 692-1471 or check http://brunsonsfurniture.com.