Three generations of the Carroll family have made Richland Bell Furniture the go-to Tri-City store for quality home furnishings and good old-fashioned customer service.
[blockquote quote="Good customer service never goes out of style.." source="Pete Carroll, owner of Richland Bell Furniture" align="right" max_width="300px"]
When Joe Carroll first opened his store 68 years ago, his son Pete was a youngster. By the time Pete hit high school, he was working in his dad’s store.
Today, 70-year-old Pete is still selling furniture in the same store, in the same location at the Parkway in Richland and with the same customer service philosophy his late father taught him.
“We’ve always been a family-friendly store with good customer service and low-pressure sales,” he said. “When I began working for my dad, he had me start at the bottom working in the stock room and helping with deliveries because he wanted me to learn all aspects of the business. Selling furniture is all this family knows and we love it.”
That same work ethic was passed on to Pete’s son Anthony, who now handles most of the day-to-day operation at the furniture store.
“I started at rock bottom just like my dad, learning all about the business, from deliveries to sales, and starting out making just $3.50 an hour,” said 38-year-old Anthony. “I didn’t like the low wage back then, but I loved the business and didn’t want to disappoint my grandfather or my dad.”
Anthony’s own kids — ages 8 and 11 — help in the store these days, whether it’s cleaning up the stock room, dusting furniture or helping with deliveries.
So how has a family-owned furniture store been able to survive into the 21st century competing against the internet and discount furniture stores.
Pete is pragmatic about it all. “You get what you pay for,” he said. “We’ve certainly had some tough years, but we survived.”
He also believes the reason Richland Bell Furniture survived for 68 years is because of the store’s commitment to friendly service to customers, along with offering top-of-the-line, quality merchandise, such as La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel and Stressless brands.
“Good customer service never goes out of style. If our customers have a problem with a piece of furniture they buy from us, we take care of it,” Pete said. “There’s no corporate home office to deal with. And our deliveries are always free within the Tri-City area.”
Bell Furniture also offers in-house financing for customers.
There are six employees, counting Pete and Anthony, some of whom have been working at the store for decades, like Laurel Surplus, who has worked for the Carrolls for almost 30 years.
“I enjoy working with people,” she said. “And with Pete and Anthony, you couldn’t ask for better bosses.”
Another aspect of Richland Bell Furniture that the Carrolls are proud of is that their inventory doesn’t come from China. It’s all American-made furniture, except for its Stressless brand that comes from Norway.
It’s that superior quality, as well as customer service, that encourages many of Richland Bell’s customers to return year after year.
Dave Stewart, who lives in rural Benton County, has been shopping at the store for years. He prefers the locally-owned furniture store for several reasons.
“The quality of the furniture is excellent,” he said. “Once we even bought a couch and love seat and had a few issues with the pieces after they got them home. Anthony replaced the pieces, no questions asked. Now that’s amazing customer service to me.”
As for the Carrolls, they hope to add a fourth generation to Richland Bell Furniture’s long-standing presence in the Tri-Cities and someday pass the torch to Anthony’s children.
And though Pete has turned over most of the duties of running the store to his son, he doesn’t see himself retiring either.
“I still enjoy this business and helping people find the right furniture,” he said. “And I like being a part of this community. But I would like to find more time to play golf.”
Store hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Richland Bell Furniture is at 714 The Parkway. For more information, call 509-943-9111 or visit richlandbell.com.
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