As covered by the Kentucky New Era
Owner of Bill Beliles Furniture closing store
Market isn’t what it used to be, owner says
Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013 6:21 pm |Updated: 11:07 pm, Thu Dec 26, 2013.
By Kat Russell, New Era Photojournalist |0 Comments
After 54 years, Bill Beliles Furniture in downtown Hopkinsville is going out of business.
Last week, the store on East Ninth Street advertised a retirement sale. However, owner Bill Beliles said he weighed the financial implications of staying open over the past week and decided it is time to pull the plug.
“I was thinking about continuing it on and thinking about the economic time that we’re in right now,” he said, “and I decided that it was best to just close it down. I didn’t have anybody who was really interested in carrying on the business.”
Beliles blamed an abundance of low-quality furniture, available through big retailers, for taking a big bite out of his high-end furniture business.
“The high-end of the market is just not what it used to be,” he said. “A lot of stores have gone out of business all across the country, and a lot of them have gone broke. There’s so much today that is very low-end and looks good that it’s just killed the high-end market.”
Born in Hopkinsville at Jennie Stuart Hospital in 1929, Beliles spent his childhood in Bowling Green before his family moved to Nashville when he was around eight or nine years old.
His father, a lawyer, worked in the county clerk’s office in Morgantown and dabbled in politics. His mother was a schoolteacher before going to work with her husband in the county clerk’s office. Beliles described his parents as “good Christian folks.”
Later, the family opened a small motel and restaurant in the Nashville area, which they ran for more than 30 years.
Beliles graduated from Peabody College where he studied social studies and physical education and became qualified to coach.
“My father just made sure I got a degree. He didn’t care what the degree was in,” he laughed.
Beliles, however, had no interest in becoming a coach or a teacher because the money wasn’t that great.
Toward the end of his college career, the Korean War broke out. Beliles, 21 at the time, enlisted in the Navy and was shipped out to Japan. He spent his time working as a storekeeper on a Landing Ship Tank, or LST, where he did “anything they told (him) to do.”
“We went back and forth between Japan and Korea,” he said. “We would load up the LST with tanks or troops and then head back to Korea to unload. We’d drive right up on the beach, open the bay doors and let the tanks and trucks off.”
One time, he remembered, his LST transported prisoners of war from a Korean beach to a small island where there was a detainment camp. To many, a naval storekeeper sounds like a safe place to be when at war, but Beliles said he saw quite a bit of action.
“I remember when we would open up those bay doors to let the tanks out, and bullets would be flying all over the place, hitting the tanks and trucks.”
Sometimes, a man on the LST would trade places with a soldier on the front lines so that he could get some rest. Beliles said he always volunteered to trade, but was never allowed to go.
“They said to me, ‘You’re the shopkeeper. We need you here.’”
When he returned to the U.S., Beliles started working for the Maytag Company managing the service department for an area that covered Tennessee, Kentucky, southern Illinois and southern Ohio.
Later, he got a job working in sales for Pfizer — one of the largest multinational pharmaceutical companies in the United States.
“We had drugs to cure everything,” he joked.
In 1959 Beliles’ former boss from Maytag informed him that Leo Willett Maytag in Hopkinsville was going out of business. Beliles, who had wanted to buy out the business a few years earlier, moved back to Hopkinsville and snatched it up.
Beliles kept the Maytag business going for the first five years before turning it into Bill Beliles Furniture.
Now, 54 years later, Beliles has decided it is time for him to let the business go.
“I’m 84 years old,” he said. “It’s time for me to retire.”
There is no official closing date, Beliles said. Instead, the shop will remain open until the last item is sold. He added that he hasn’t yet decided whether he will sell the property or rent it out.
Ready to put the shop behind him, Beliles said he is looking forward to slowing down, spending time with his family — he has two sons and three grandchildren — and enjoying the free time.
“I enjoy playing golf,” he said. “I plan on playing golf into my twilight years.”