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.
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.