1. How did Lindsley’s Home Furnishings come to be?
It started in the 1930’s with my great grandfather Ed Jones who owned, “Ed Jones Home Supply.” Ed and Caroline Jones lived over in Ferdinand, where my grandmother Muriel was born. My grandfather [Sam] came out from Minnesota to take a teaching job at Cottonwood. He actually ended up on the same train with Ed Jones when he arrived. My grandfather Sam joined the business around 1939 and it became “Jones & Lindsley.” After WWII they eventually added home appliances, then furniture shortly thereafter. Essentially, our anniversary for the business is 1945. Sam and Muriel ran the business until my parents, Tom and Judy, took over approximately 1967 until 2000.
2. When did you decide that taking over the family business was what you were going to do?
I moved back here in ‘93 for a temporary gig, at the time, one of the employees was getting ready to have a baby. I was interviewing in Chicago and Portland trying to get out of Boise and this was supposed to be a stopping point.
Timing played a role and was kind of undefined as my older brother, Ted, had already been active in the business since 1987, and I wasn’t convinced the business was large enough for more than one member and the dynamic that comes with working so close with family. As it turned out, that was the motivation for brother Ted to start the idea of opening the Super 8 Motel, which was the right decision.
3. How was it to weave yourself into a business when your parents were still at the store?
I think Angela and I had moved back for about three months and I was on the phone back to Boise Cascade pleading for a return interview.
I came from a real structured, corporate environment, that I liked. And, then, all of a sudden, I am sitting at a desk where I looked up and was staring at my brother, could look over and see my mother, and then my dad was in the office. When the phone would ring ,they would ask for my mother. I started calling them, “Tom and Judy” at work - and they hated that! [laughed]
Love my family, but it was a challenge working with my parents and older brother.
Looking back now, ironically, I really miss those days.
4. What was the “strangest” or, most “conversational” piece to be featured in your store?
I don’t really remember any specific items being too strange. Only thing that comes to mind is a “prop” of a spilled cup of coffee that was used to promote “Soil Shield”, a fabric protectant. I think there were as many adults as kids that thought it was real.
5. Does Lindsley’s have a number one selling item?
Because of the current effect of Covid-19 on the supply chain, any inventory we can get becomes our number one seller. It’s been tough. I’d say there still is that old standard of a La-Z-Boy recliner for most customers.
6. Favorite customer service/customer experience story?
The ones I remember are about my grandparents and Mom and Dad. In one instance, one of the Kaschmitter boys from Cottonwood, his name was Joe, he’s since passed away, took me aside one day and wanted to tell me about my grandfather, Sam. He [Joe] was about ‘6 8” and his feet were this big [holding hands to demonstrate large feet ]. He couldn’t afford any basketball shoes so my grandfather found and bought him a pair that actually fit him, because up to that point he had always had to wear hand-me-downs or used shoes. I remember that more than any kind of sale.
It’s always been very important for us to try to duplicate how my parents and grandparents treated people. My Grandmother Muriel was a master at remembering everyone’s names and relatives. I did not inherit that ability.
7. Retail has undergone a major shift – how did you adapt?
The Internet can replace any Main Street business. If you try to approach things from a customer standpoint, it’s pretty clear how to compete — people just want to be taken care of.
Adapting wasn’t that difficult, knowing we didn’t have a choice but to become part of that competitive set. In our industry, we have found it relatively easy to compete on price, but also recognize the importance of customer relationships and giving customers something the Internet cannot.
8. What’s one thing you wish your community knew about having/owning and operating a local business?
I wonder if residents really understand the amount of giving that the local businesses financially contribute back to fund-raisers, clubs, and events.
It’s a necessary part of the formula for keeping small towns alive, and it only works if we can still provide the best price and service in order to deserve that business. That’s one thing that Internet shopping will never provide small towns. People don’t see that or understand that all the time.
Another thing, in a small town with retail, the person who lives three blocks up from main street, who saves three dollars on a purchase by buying online, well, if that continues, pretty soon we have businesses shutting down. That person’s house was once valued at $200,000 but with the collapse of local businesses and infrastructure, their home value went to $150,000. Everyone depends on the success of local businesses.
9. After you, is there anyone in the family interested in continuing the tradition?
Understandably, our boys are at an age where there isn’t much appeal. Every family business wrestles with future succession plans, but I think it works when there isn’t an expectation to “carry on” the family tradition. It’s provided a terrific opportunity for us to raise our family in a small town, which we’re grateful for.
The option will be there, but it will be something they buy for themselves. Then they can immerse themselves in it and make it for themselves.
10.What is the one thing you love most about your job?
Angela and I have always appreciated everyone who has worked here and helped build this business over the years. They are the most important. But I will say the flexibility of being able to attend our boys school and athletic events, and the side gig of helping coach the high school football kids over the years has been the absolute best.
What would you say to encourage anyone deciding to start their own locally owned business?
Understand your market and ask yourself how do you fit it with the Amazons of the world.