Extending the Focus of Service Beyond Its Customers
The word “service,” in the retail world, generally refers to a company’s ability to care for its customers. At Knoxville Wholesale Furniture, however, the word takes on a much broader meaning.
That’s because the president of the company, Tim Harris, sees what he does a bit differently from most business owners, and that difference of opinion has never been more evident than in the way he has navigated his company through the Covid-19 crisis.
“When we were ordered to shut down in the early spring,” recounts Harris, “I was convinced – for a host of reasons – that I would be forced to do things differently. Don’t get me wrong; I have great sympathy for the authorities who made that decision… after all, we were and still are up against something we know little about. They felt they were doing the right thing. I prayed on it, and in the end, felt that the right thing for me to do was to keep people working and provide the products that I knew the community still needed.”
This isn’t to say Harris didn’t take precautions. His stores stayed open, but with every safety precaution in place. The average size of a Knoxville Furniture Warehouse showroom is about in 95,000 square feet, so customers were able to socially distance without any difficulty. Another precaution? Customers entered by appointment only. “When a customer came to the door,” says Harris, they’d pair up with a sales associate who was instructed to socially distance themselves from the customer. In addition, all store surfaces and restrooms were cleaned hourly.”
Over the past 30 years, Harris has made a conscious effort to build a culture that is strong, consistent and supportive. “Culture is king,” he says, “and when you have a culture like ours, there was really no decision for me to make in terms of whether or not we’re essential. Of course we’re essential; to the individuals in our community who need our products and to the 175 individuals who rely on this business to support their families and, in turn, those community businesses that are struggling badly, like restaurants and small family businesses.”
Is Harris’s business a truly family-owned enterprise? Ask his wife Robin, his son Tyler, or his daughter Sarah. Each plays an integral role in the operation but, just as importantly, helps to reinforce the culture of support that Harris has worked hard to build. “Our idea of family business goes beyond my wife and children. It encompasses every one of the hardworking, dedicated individuals who come to work here every day. That’s probably why many of those folks have been with us for over 20 years.” Some of Harris’s longtime employees couldn’t agree more. Associate Lou Grey says: “Working for the KWF family has been the most satisfying and fulfilling career experiences of my life.” Co-worker Darrin Beedy feels the same way: “Working for KWF for 24 years has made me a better husband, a better father and a better person overall.”
So, ask Tim Harris what “service” means to him. He’ll tell you that yes, it’s taking care of customers… but it can also be much, much more.
Knoxville Wholesale Furniture is a family-owned business since 1992, the largest independent furniture retailer in the mid-South. With four locations: two superstores, an Ashley store, and a clearance center, the company is able to offer top name brand furniture lines such as Vanguard, Bernhardt, Lexington, Kincaid, Beautyrest, Barcolounger and more at wholesale pricing.
10 North Peters Rd.
Knoxville, TN 37922
2381 Old Callahan Dr.
Knoxville, TN 37912