In this modern, Internet-surfing, mouse-clicking age of Walmart.com, Amazon and Overstock shopping, we can get almost everything we want from the comfort of our couch, or while propped up in bed.
Remember going to the grocery store with your parents when you were a kid, and all you wanted to do was get to the cereal aisle? Everything from magically delicious marshmallow shamrocks to plain flakes made from corn was on display, eager to join you—in a bowl, at least—for Saturday morning cartoons. You could spend all day there, looking at the vast selection of boxes, tempted by the ones with a prize inside.
If you remember all of that, then you know exactly what it feels like to walk into the new Riggs Outdoor store at 20453 Interstate 30 South in Benton—except this cereal aisle is 25,000 square feet big.
For George Cress, Vice President of Branch Operations for Riggs, the decision to locate the store in Benton was easy. “Saline County is where the growth in Central Arkansas is primarily concentrated. Also, the majority of our workforce at Riggs is from Saline County. Therefore, we are very engaged in the community here and wanted to have a physical location in the county. Saline County has been a tremendous supporter of Riggs and we want to give back! Also, we believe Saline County needs a store like Riggs Outdoor. There is nothing like it in Central Arkansas and we wanted to be the first to create it.”
Posted in lights above the Sales and Rental counters is the slogan, “Work Hard, Play Hard”. For Cress and Riggs, this means having the right product for any need. “We rent all products that our customers need on their jobsites, at their farms, etc. We sell a number of products that operate around the house: zero-turn mowers, side by sides, four-wheelers, motorcycles, dirt bikes, chainsaws—you name it.”
The lot outside the store, like the inside, is fully stocked. On sale are motorcycles from Kawasaki, KTM, and Husqvarna; Kawasaki side by sides; Caterpillar equipment, including the Cat UTV; Spartan and Husqvarna mowers; LS tractors; Husqvarna power equipment; Kymco scooters, motorcycles and ATVs; Kawasaki and Kymco four-wheelers; Banded hunting gear; a full line of Pelican ice chests, flashlights and more. They rent all types of equipment, including Cat products, aerial lifts, man lifts, light towers, air compressors, trenchers, ride-on skid steers, and the list goes on and on.
If you have an aging or worn-out machine, bring it with you. Riggs accepts trade-ins. “We have a full-time Finance and Insurance manager who works very hard to get every customer approved for financing,” says Cress. “We have a number of different avenues by which to get people financed.”
The store also offers a full line of apparel from Banded, Fly, Thor, Cat, and Speed & Strength.
To top it all off, the Service Department can fix both the products they sell and those of competitors. The Parts Department can handle any need for the products they sell and rent.
The store was conceived, designed and built to be a “destination,” not just another retailer. According to store manager Kelly Greer, “We want people to come visit, have some coffee and just hang out with us if they want to.”
Once you visit Riggs Outdoor, you’ll accept Kelly’s invitation faster than you can say, “java.”
In addition to selling quality products and backing them up with great service, Riggs has built a company culture of involvement with their employees and with causes that make a difference.
“Our culture is described by the phrase, ‘Moving Dirt, Moving People,’” says Cress. “Moving Dirt describes the heart of our organization. For 92 years we have been delivering quality equipment backed by the best service in town. Moving People means taking care of our employees first and foremost.” To back up this claim, the company has a program titled the “Share It Forward Foundation,” which gives employees the opportunity to contribute to a fund that helps co-workers who are going through a rough time and need assistance.
They also maintain a partnership with the Arkansas Food Bank through a program called “We Build Arkansas.” For each motorsports vehicle sold, Riggs donates twenty meals. With every piece of big machinery, the donation increases to 100 meals. A sticker marks each eligible item.
In addition to Kelly Greer, Jay Darr is the assistant branch manager. Bryant Phillips is the service manager. Beau Thornton is the manager in charge of Finance and Insurance.
Riggs Outdoor had been previously located farther to the southwest in Benton, across the interstate from the Saline County Fairgrounds since 2016. JA Riggs goes all the way back to 1927; founded right here in Little Rock, it has grown into an international earth-moving giant.
The store is already open, but plans are set for a Grand Opening Celebration on April 6. By the way, that’s a Saturday. You might want to have that bowl of cereal early! νBrent Davis
So it can bring about a much-needed sigh of relief when you come across a company still committed to face-to-face service and developing relationships with customers. That’s exactly what you’ll find with Darla and Colby Maness when visiting My Furniture Warehouse in Alexander.
“Those personal relationships are what set us apart,” Colby said. “I like knowing my customers and developing friendships with them. I treat them the way I’d want to be treated: honest and up front.”
Founded in 2005 by Darla and her late husband, My Furniture Warehouse first specialized in selling mattresses. But as word quickly spread, the couple and Colby recognized the inevitability of growth. “I’ve worked here since I was 12-years-old. Child labor laws don’t apply to family,” he laughed. “This is pretty much all I’ve known.”
“After the success with our mattresses, we expanded to furniture and now provide just about everything,” he added.
Colby joined Darla three years ago as the store’s co-owner, and the two have maintained an unusually tight workforce of two.
“Yeah. It’s mainly just the two of us up there every day,” he said. “We have family who help from time to time, but when you walk through the door, you know you’re working directly with the owners, and we try to apply a personal touch.
“I know just about every customer who comes in,” he added. “I might not be able to remember all of their names, but I can remember their faces and what they’ve bought.”
Remembering customers and their differing tastes can present quite the challenge for the Maness’s, especially when you consider the constantly changing world of home fashion. So how do they remain ahead of the curve, and what trends do they see when dealing with home furnishing today?
“It changes every year,” Colby said. “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it changes. There is no method to the madness.
“If you watch HGTV or DIY network, you’ll see a lot of designs. Then, three to six months later, you’ll see a trickle down to the furniture manufacturers. Next thing you know, you’ll have customers coming in wanting exactly what they saw on television, and that’s always changing.
“The most popular stuff available today is anything rustic chic,” he added. “Barnwood, weathered or distressed furniture is really ‘in’ right now. With upholstery, greys are really popular. Grey leather. Grey fabric. All of it is popular.”
Don’t be mistaken, though. When competing with the larger, chain furniture stores, the Maness’s don’t rely solely on their warm smiles and honest approach when attracting customers. Colby says one of his most reliable tools is social media.
“[Facebook] has made the biggest change in our business,” he said. “One of the gigantic benefits to our store is that we do a ton of social media. I think we have close to 11,000 followers, and we do all kinds of stuff on there. Darla sometimes tells me I try to give away too much stuff, but it generates interest and gets people in the door.”
Colby says he’ll soon be expanding his social media marketing strategy to Instagram to try and appeal to younger shoppers, but when discussing My Furniture Warehouse’s established following, he and Darla already serve a wide range of clients.
“We have first time homebuyers, 18-year-olds moving out of their parents’ houses, all the way up to older adults,” he said. “I’ve had some customers come in and try to nickel and dime me on a $39 rug, and I’ve had others come in and drop $15,000 without thinking twice. We really do have something for everyone.”
The My Furniture Warehouse showroom is located in Alexander, between Little Rock and Bryant. The 10,000 square foot building has been home to the company for 13 years, but as Saline County continues growing, Colby sees a chance for change in the future.
“I know that sometimes bigger can lead to a bigger headache, but I’d like to maybe one day move into a larger store, bring in more furniture and spread out a little bit,” he said. “Maybe we’ll be able to hire one or two workers and give Darla a chance to slow things down.”
Those changes may not come for a few years, but when they do, you can rest assured that the Maness’s will still rely on those same principles that have made them a success: honesty, integrity and that personal touch.
At a time when we spend more time shopping from our phones, it’s nice to think there are still some entrepreneurs doing it the old-fashioned way.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s the best way.