With roots stretching back to the early 1940s, Great Southern Furniture has helped define St. Charles Parish for generations.
And though the furniture store has been able to weather numerous changes for more than 60 years, the recent state of the economy is one it just can’t seem to shake. The effects of the obscenely high cost of fuel, plus price increases in almost everything else residents need to survive, just hasn’t left a lot of extra money lying around for people to buy furniture.
“Increase in cost and decrease in demand at the consumer level led to our decision,” Jack Fisher, who co-owns Great Southern Furniture with his wife Kathy, said. “There is a lot of downward pressure at the wholesale level in the country. The cost of everything is rising, along with the cost of fuel and other things.
“We are having difficulty importing the furniture.”
Great Southern Furniture originally got its start as Fisher Furniture, which Jack’s dad, Leonard, opened in 1944. Though the parish had a population of only 12,321 people at that time, the area exploded over the next 55 years to one with over 50,000 residents. While the store prospered throughout that period, it was evident that a change was needed if it was to survive.
That change came from Jack, who bought the business from his father in the ‘90s. Because he felt that the parish would continue to grow, Jack began looking for a bigger location that could better meet the needs of the area. In 2003, he settled in Luling’s St. Charles Plaza, filling a spot left vacant by the old Delchamps grocery store.
The move took the operation from about 22,000-square-feet of showroom and warehouse to 45,000-square-feet. Even though the store was to remain a family operation, with Jack and Kathy bringing their daughter Julia into the business, the name was changed from Fisher Furniture to Great Southern Furniture.
“It has been very hard to maintain a successful business over the years,” Kathy said. “There were a lot of sleepless nights crunching numbers and brainstorming because we had to keep up with the competition in surrounding parishes.
“St. Charles Parish has been good to us, though.”
Besides trying to keep up with the competition, just dealing with the every day hassles of a furniture business is exhausting all on its own.
“Kathy, Julia and I all have our strengths and weaknesses in running the business,” Jack said. “The difficulty has been trying to use what we can all do and make it work. To flow the furniture through the warehouse, to the floor, through the office and into the customer’s home is the name of the game.
“If you have one weak link, it all falls apart.”
Great Southern Furniture is almost one month into their going out of business sale and, so far, furniture has been flying out of the store.
“We think our selection is good, so we’re not giving away junk,” Jack said. “Unlike most real going out of business sales, we actually have deals on nice products.”
Jacks says that his warehouses are pretty empty, but there are still plenty of bargains left.
“The attorney general only gives us 90 days though, so the clock is ticking,” he said.
Some of those bargains can be found in mattresses, recliners, sofas and bedrooms. And while the warehouses may be thinning out, the floor is still full.
However, the floor may not stay that way for long. The sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1. It will last until midnight on Aug. 2. Because the parish’s sales tax holiday coincides with the state’s tax holiday, residents will not pay any taxes on the first $2,500 of the purchase price of most tangible property items, which includes furniture.
Great Southern Furniture, like most businesses in the area, should experience a boost in sales because of the holiday.
But even though Great Southern Furniture is a month into its going out of business sale, most residents just can’t believe it.
“The reaction from the community has been disbelief,” Kathy said. “We have been in St. Charles Parish for so many years, through so many generations. For the non-believers out there, let us assure you – sadly, we are done with furniture.”
And when the going out of business sale ends in close to two months, the Fisher family will have to figure out what they are going to do next.
“It’s a bit scary that we don’t know our next move,” Jack said. “If anyone out there is in need of worn out furniture salesmen, give us a call.”