WINDER — Larry and Dot Jones have experienced a lot of ups and downs in their 63 years of business in downtown Winder, but they’ve made it through them all and managed to come out the other side with a more devoted clientele than ever before.
Those devoted customers were left reeling when the couple announced last month that the sprawling, five-building furniture store, Larry’s Furniture, would close its doors at the end of the summer.
“We’ve been thinking about it for years; we’re both way past the age (when we could have retired),” said Larry Jones, now 88. “So this year we finally decided that we should stop.”
Their ages, along with the slow economy, helped them make the decision to close the store.
Now they’re using a months-long retirement sale to liquidate some of the merchandise — and more importantly, to give old friends and customers another chance to stop in and visit at the store that anchored downtown Winder and helped turn their houses into homes.
“It breaks my heart that they’re not able to keep on,” said JoAnn Morgan, a longtime customer who has never bought furniture from any other store. “Winder won’t be the same without this store. … I don’t know what Winder is going to do without them.”
Jones has been a part of the downtown business landscape since the late 1940s when he started a job managing the Easy Pay Tire Store after coming home from World War II. He was able to buy that store in 1948, two years after marrying Dot.
The couple renamed the store Larry’s Easy Pay Tire Store, and they soon expanded from affordable tires to home goods and appliances and, for a time, even sold Honda motorcycles. They opened Larry’s Furniture
in 1965 on North Broad Street.
Dot, always a fashion plate, loved furniture. When they started looking for a new venture, she began bringing pieces from Atlanta and dressing some of the store windows with furniture displays, Larry Jones said.
Her initiative helped the business grow into a five-building juggernaut that went head-to-head with big-box stores for years without flinching, he said.
Their secret to growing their business was that they loved working together, stayed involved in every aspect of the business and provided excellent service, Jones said.
“Our customer relations have always been excellent,” he said. “We’ve always tried to do the right thing for the right reasons.”
That slogan meant helping customers find what they needed at a price they could afford and generally treating everyone well, said Tommy Jennings, president of the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce and a longtime friend of the Joneses.
Jones even treated his competitors well, helping other furniture and home-goods merchants set up shop.
“They have just been the anchor of downtown Winder for so many years,” Jennings said. “He’s just a part of the fabric of the community who should never be forgotten.”
That won’t happen, said Morgan, the longtime customer. Almost every house in Barrow County has a couch or a dining room table that carries memories of the store with it, she said.
“It’s been an exciting journey for us,” Jones said. “We’re now doing business with the children and the grandchildren of our oldest customers. The older ones are gone, but the family still comes by when they need a piece of furniture or just to say hello.”