PFP to handle historic store closing at Henco Furniture
As covered by Memphis Channel 3
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As covered by the Memphis Commercial Appeal
West Tennessee’s Henco Furniture announces closing
Entrepreneur and longtime retailer Tom Hendrix wants customers to know that his homespun television commercials promising that “It’s worth the drive” to visit Henco Furniture in Selmer, Tenn., are still true, but now there’s an expiration date attached.
The expansive furniture store, located about 80 miles east of Memphis at 205 Henco Drive in the Selmer Industrial Park, is closing after 17 years in business. Hendrix, who turns 81 in April, made the announcement on Tuesday and said he plans to devote the next chapter in his life to penning his autobiography. A going-out-of-business sale is now under way, but the official closing date depends on how long it takes to move the remaining merchandise.
“When I turned 80 last year I told my wife Sherry Lynne that I thought 80 to 90 would be my best years,” Hendrix said. “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but it takes time to do it, so that’s what I’m going to focus on now. That and spending more time with my family.”
Hendrix said that although he’s enjoyed running the family-owned business, it just wasn’t feasible for his daughters — Leigh Anne McWhorter of Nashville and Susan O’Connell of Corinth, Miss. — to uproot their lives and move their young children back to Selmer to take over day-to-day operations.
And economic factors played a significant role in the decision, Hendrix said.
From a high of around 100 employees, the staff has fallen to around 40 workers after the fallout from the recession. And while the store used to post sales of more than $1 million a month, that figure has been cut at least in half since 2008 and the effort to maintain operations was becoming exhausting.
“It’s sort of like owning a dairy farm because you’ve got to get up early and milk the cows every day. You’ve got to love it and live it,” Hendrix said. “They’ve got their lives elsewhere and this was not the right career for them.”
It certainly didn’t seem like an obvious career for Hendrix, either, at least not at the start.
After decades as an entrepreneur and working in a variety of venues, Hendrix came out of retirement in 1996 to open his furniture showroom. With no prior experience in furniture sales, he focused on building personal connections with customers and creating a family-friendly environment that served as shopping emporium and tourist destination.
“My wife and I were motor-homing it across the country and I told her that at I had a lot of productive years in me and needed to do something else,” Hendrix recalled. “I decided to open up a furniture place near where I grew up and make it a place where the parents would love to visit and the kids would cry when they had to leave.”
To do that, Hendrix fashioned his facility as a destination spot, transforming more than 200,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse space into a homey village that included a restaurant, soda fountain and offered cookies at the front of the store and popcorn in the back. Henco featured a Main Street theme with various storefronts that led to different merchandise areas.
“I was working at a bank at the time when Mr. Hendrix came in and wanted a loan to recreate this small town, furniture store kind of place within an industrial park and I thought he was crazy at first,” said Ted Moore, executive director of the McNairy County Economic Development Commission. “But we made the loan and he made the business successful and Henco has had a great impact on our community.”
Spread out over 40 acres, the site drew customers from six states and was the second-highest tax generator in the county, said Russell Ingle, director of Chamber programs for the McNairy Regional Alliance. The Chamber of Commerce promoted the facility as both a shopping outlet and a tourist destination.
“Lots of groups like the Rotary Club met there and it was a hub for social networking activities,” Ingle said. “It was a great attraction for our community and we’re going to miss it.”
Hendrix’s daughter Susan O’Connell said she’d also miss the store, but that she knew her parents were looking forward to spending lots of time with their seven grandchildren.
“We’re sad about leaving all the customers and employees because they’ve been like family to us, but we want to look at this as a celebration of my father’s career and what he’s meant to so many people,” O’Connell said. “He’s not closing the book, he’s just turning the page to start the next chapter in his story.”
Henco Furniture will continue to discount its merchandise and remain open until the stock is depleted, Hendrix said, but there’s no way of knowing how long that will take. In the meantime, the property is being listed with a real estate agency in the hope of transforming the space into something else once the final sale has been rung up.
“It’s still worth the drive, but you need to get on the road and make the trip today,” Hendrix said. “We’ll be waiting for you.”