Photo: Brad Jensen, Jerry Jensen, Tom Wright and John Wright in the Jensen Home Furnishings store in Taylorville, Ill.
Jerry Jensen is a happy man. He and Donna, the “cute little blond” he married 61 years ago, are retiring after selling the business they built from scratch. And they’re leaving it in good hands.
“I’m 85, and my family and my son, we’re ready to move on,” Jensen said.
Jensen Home Furnishings opened its doors in Taylorville, Ill., in 1983 with only family members on staff. Now the business employs 23 and claims 57,000 square feet of showroom space and an attached warehouse. The buyer is Wright’s Furniture & Flooring, a three-store business based in Dieterich, Ill.
“I’ve known the Wrights for many years,” Jensen said. “They are the greatest people.”
“I’ve known him a long time, over 40 years,” Tom Wright confirmed. “I think the world of him.”
“He always told me he’d sell to me,” Wright recalled. “We laughed like, well, sure.”
But then it happened. The purchase closes July 31.
‘A very, very good fit’
Wright’s Furniture and Flooring, in business since 1889, treats employees well and provides excellent service, Jensen said.
“They operate the same way we do,” he added. “They’re a very, very good fit.”
The warm feelings are mutual. “We carry a lot of the same lines and share a lot of the same small-town values,” said Alex Wright, Tom’s son.
“They run a very clean store, well decorated, well accessorized. He runs his business really well,” Tom Wright added.
Both businesses belong to the Home Furnishings Association, making this a rare instance of one HFA member purchasing another.
The timing for growth was good for Wright’s Furniture. Alex, who had spent a few years “on the road” for Ashley Furniture Industries, according to his father, returned home and pumped “a little more energy into the business.” Taylor Wright, the daughter of Tom’s brother, John, also joined the business. She holds a degree in interior design. The two young Wrights represent the family’s fifth generation in the business.
It will be a smooth transition, with no changes planned at Jensen’s. Jerry’s daughter-in-law, Patrice Jensen, who is married to Brad Jensen, and store manager Tim Collins will remain in their positions.
“One hundred percent of the employees agreed to stay,” Tom Wright said. “That was a real plus for us. It’s hard to find good employees, and they’re all good.”
They’ll carry on a legacy of customer service, which Jerry Jensen sums up with this pearl of wisdom: “When you receive a call from someone who seems to be unhappy, agree with him.”
A community investment
The Wrights aren’t just buying out a business, of course. They’re investing in a community. In a small town, that’s important. Taylorville, located about 30 miles southeast of Springfield, “in the heart of Abraham Lincoln country,” according to the city website, claims about 11,000 residents. Dieterich is 70 miles southeast of Taylorville.
“We want to be good neighbors and part of the community as much as we can,” Tom Wright said. That’s another reason why it’s an advantage to keep the Jensen employees. And Jerry has promised to help by urging his customers to keep shopping at the same place, while Wright’s will feature Jensen in its local advertising, Tom said.
“He’s done a fantastic job,” Alex Wright said of Jensen. “Hopefully, we can keep the magic going.”
That magic will keep Jerry and Donna in Taylorville. “It’s time to retire, but we’re not going to relocate,” Jensen said. “Taylorville has been very good to me and my family.
“My biggest problem is they did away with the greeters at Wal-Mart.”