Longtime HFA member Hank Coca never made it past the eighth grade in school. As Coca’s son Henry tells it, his father was 13, when he was pulled out of school to work in the farming family’s fields outside San Jose, Calif. Hank Coco frequently told his son how he would press his face against the school’s chain-link fence to see what he was missing.
“Dad always loved school, he loved learning,” Henry Coca recalled. “Even without school he never stopped learning.”
Hank Coca, who died April 29, took all that knowledge gathered through the years and channeled it into one of San Jose’s most successful home furnishings stores, Hank Coca’s Downtown Furniture. He was 85.
Henry Coca recalled his father as someone who knew the value of relationships in the home furnishings industry—be they the next customer who walked through the front door of his downtown store, or a far-away manufacturer in North Carolina. “Dad treated everyone in this business with respect and they returned the favor.
Hank Coca got his start in sales selling pots and pans door to door in San Francisco before joining the now-defunct Great Western Furniture Company. He decided he could do better on his own so he opened his own store in San Jose—Furniture Discount House—in 1957. He was only 26. Eventually the store became Hank Coca’s Downtown Furniture, where it became a local institution of sorts.
“People who bought furniture from my father liked the way he treated them so they came back, and their children came back and their grandchildren,” said Henry. “Every once in a while we will get someone in the store buying furniture for their home and they’ll tell me, ‘I remember coming to this store when I was a kid.’ ”
Henry Coca says his father taught him a lot about the home furnishings business, chief of which is this: The customer comes first. “Make sure you take care of the customer, make sure you have them first and foremost in your mind,” said Henry Coca. “That’s what dad always told me and showed me. It was very important to him. We still do that today. In fact, that’s why we’re still here today.”
Henry Coca says the advice his father handed down over the years still rings true today. “Dad always said, ‘Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.’ I still hear him saying that, and it’s true now than ever before.”
Henry Coca says his father was always teaching a lesson—even when there wasn’t a customer around for hours. “When it was a little slow around here dad would say that was God’s way of telling you to move things around on the floor since you’ve got some time on your hands. Sure enough, I did that a few weeks back and people started coming in. We made a few sales that day.”