Pictured abive is the Hudson Family, left to right Cessy Hudson Smith , Julie Hudson, Katie Hudson Purgason, Harry Lindy Hudson Jr., and, of course, Lindy Hudson in front. At left is the upper portion of Lindy's Furniture's home page along with social media links and scrolling customer comments appearing on that page about Lindy's family-friendly service and five-star ratings.When the Hudson family first came on the scene in 1917 in Rhodhiss, North Carolina, the future was full of challenge, world-changing, inescapable events, internationally and at home.
Today, on Main Circle Highway in Connelly Springs, NC, Lindy’s Furniture takes up a whole 'city' block, 90,000 square feet, under the care of Julie Hudson, Company Secretary and Lindy Hudson, Jr., Treasurer. At Hickory, just down the road six miles away, you’ll find another Lindy’s Furniture, this one 30,000 square feet, well-tended by Katie Purgason, Vice President. And there’s yet another 12,000 square feet, the new expansion, ‘Simply Home, by Lindy’s Furniture’, at the Hickory Furniture Mart.
"Lindy’s family is very serious about making sure they are successful online as well in the store," said Andy Bernstein the founder and CEO of FurnitureDealer.net. "Even though they are focused on doing everything they can to grow and succeed into the next generation, it’s obvious that as a team and a family they also have a lot of fun. The value of this cannot be underestimated.
In this day and age, being an independent has its down sides compared to a being a regional chain, but they embrace the fact that they are an independent family owned company very much to their advantage."
H. L. “Lindy” Hudson, Sr., President of Lindy’s Furniture, “Was born in 1930. He comes to Lindy’s every day that he is able, loves to meet, greet and talk history with customers. His continued efforts have helped to keep Lindy’s Furniture steadfast and thriving. Born in the U.S.A. to an Italian immigrant mother, he lives the American Dream!” This from a note to Furniture World Magazine from Lindy’s family and staff.
Lindy’s legacy? When you visit the towns of Hickory and Connelly Springs, North Carolina, you’ll see his three beautiful home furnishings stores. There’s a big celebration taking place in both towns, the family marking their 100th year in business. So, we’ll be traveling back a century in time to try to discover their secrets of longevity, successful succession, family strength and outreach.
Lindy has given this anniversary a lot of thought. In order to paint an accurate picture of the family’s navigation through the past years, he believed it would be best to tell the story himself.
To set the scene, the Blue Ridge Mountains are the exquisite backdrop for the towns of Rhodhiss, Blowing Rock, Boone, Morganton, Asheville, Granite Falls, Connelly Springs and Hickory.
Lindy Tells His Story
Said Lindy, “My father, Jones Edney Hudson, Sr., was born in 1887. When the Southern Power Company purchased the Hudson family farmland to build what is now Rhodhiss Dam, the Hudson family purchased over 250 acres of land in Connelly Springs, near a railroad station and Knob Mountain. My father was 17 when he moved with his family of two brothers, four sisters and parents to Connelly farm with its large log house and big barn.
“He learned Morse Code which at that time was used by the railroad to send messages from engines to cabooses.
“J.E. got a job at the Ridgecrest Station working on the third shift. He later moved to Connelly Springs as the Station Master, a job he held for 32 years. Since he got off work at 8:00 a.m., he decided to open a general merchandise store. In 1917 he purchased an old wooden building, started selling groceries, shoes, clothing and tailor made clothes by International Tailoring Company. In 1941, his sons, Ed Jr., age 15, and Lindy (me), age 11, had tailor made double breasted blue coats and pants!”
“Connelly Springs was, of course, a railroad town," Katie added, "so during the Depression many times hobos got off the train, looking for a place to stay and eat. J.E. Hudson Sr. used to give them a bologna sandwich on rye bread, no charge. He didn’t want them to go hungry!”
Lindy continued, “J.E. hired his nephew, Fred Hudson who earned one-half interest in the store by agreeing to work for one year’s free labor. They soon built a new three story brick building, and when in 1930 a fire burned out two adjoining buildings, they remodeled the burned out walls, and began selling furniture and farm equipment. In 1949, J.E. and Fred divided the business. J.E. then partnered with his sons, Jones Edney Hudson, Jr. and me, Harry Lindy Hudson.
“I was drafted into the US. Army, leaving the store behind with my father, Ed. Sr. He passed away soon after, and I was allowed to leave the U.S. Army to take care of my mother and the family business.
“Ed Jr. and I then rented a store building in Hickory which we later purchased.
"In 1965 we separated, Ed Jr. taking possession of the Hickory store. I took the Connelly Springs’ store.
“Urban Renewal in Hickory tore down one-quarter of the buildings located downtown. Ed Jr. moved out of the downtown area. I purchased the White Furniture Building in downtown Hickory and chose to use my first name for Lindy's Furniture since Ed was operating Hudson Furniture.
“Years later, I purchased the 35,000 square foot Better Homes Furniture, located across the street from Lindy’s Furniture in downtown Hickory. (Better Homes has been remodeled and is now offered as a rental property). Lindy’s Furniture has expanded to the Hickory Furniture Mart. The trade name there is ‘Simply Home’.
Lindy’s Furniture now has over 200,000 square feet of furniture showrooms and warehouse space between all the stores, with price ranges for everyone’s budget.
H. L. Hudson Furniture Inc., is owned by Lindy’s wife, Imogene, and Lindy’s four children.
"Our philosophy for success has been to treat customers by giving them good prices, easy credit, great selections and a friendly family atmosphere.
"Business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The store is closed both Wednesday and Sunday."
Lindy cited some of the challenges the family faced and survived. “The early years were a financial struggle to acquire and build new store buildings. In 1970, we built a new store addition with a front entrance facing Highway 70 instead of the railroad.
“In the 1980s a recession slowed the business down. Fortunately, the store had always offered in-store financing and the good accounts helped the store through slow times. As business began growing, we opened a Bassett Gallery in 1989 on the bottom level of the Connelly Springs’ location.”
That was the year of Connelly Springs’ re-incorporation and an article in a local newspaper tells us that “Hudson owns most of what was once downtown”!
Said Lindy, “In the 1990s new laws concerning bankruptcy accounts were passed. Filing bankruptcy was so easy that we lost a lot of accounts.
“As business started growing again, we added a Broyhill Gallery on the top level of the Connelly Springs store. (Broyhill was the first manufacturer the family dealt with back in 1939!)
“Also in the 1990s, a website was established to do Internet sales. Shipments sometimes included 100 pieces per day.
“It was in 1994 the Better Homes Building, 35,000 square feet, was purchased.
“After 9-11-2001, business slowed down and it was the first time in our history that Lindy’s had to lay off some salespeople.
"But, once again, the store's sale rebounded and in 2016 the store added the extension at the Hickory Furniture Mart, known as ‘Simply Home by Lindy’s’.”
Lindy's Secrets Of Success
We talked with Katie, peppered her with questions, looking for clues to Lindy’s growth. We asked her to provide three reasons why she believes Lindy's is alive and kicking, 100 years later.
Katie answered, “First, we stay true to our values. The family is heavily involved, from Lindy, our now 87 year old father, down to the three grandkids who are 18, 18 and 14 years old. Secondly, honesty! And, thirdly, we treat our customers like family.
“We are expanding due to forward thinking by the owners! If you read the book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’* it is evident you need to respond to ever-changing technology. We have ramped up our Internet presence and redecorated our stores to attract the buyers of today.”
Furniture World: “You’re doing a lot of business outside North Carolina?”
Katie: “It is easy to understand why customers shop Lindy’s. We are different! We are not your typical brick and mortar store. You can visit our three stores and buy off the floor in most cases, and we ship anywhere in the U.S. Our décor and customer-facing interaction means you get one-on-one decorating advice, at no cost.”
Furniture World: “For many decades, Hickory was a manufacturing town. Your target customers must have changed. So how do you attract your new demographic while still appealing to your customers of long standing?”
Katie: “With our website presence and easy ordering online and in the store.”
Furniture World: “At Lindy’s you’re all so proud of your customer service. What would you say is special about it?”
Katie: “We know if we treat our customers well they will come back year after year. It is the reason we have been around for 100 years.” A-ha!
Furniture World: “And what would you say is your competitive advantage?”
Katie: “Our pricing is fair and we are easy to do business with in delivery scheduling, decorating, lay-away. We work with our customers to make their purchases easy and effortless.”
Katie: Furniture World: “Do you plan to expand online sales?”
Katie: “We hired Furnituredealer.net to do the website and maintain it, and are already doing on-line business. Right now this business is typically handled by phone call or e-mail, but in the future we will implement the ‘click and order’ online method.”
Furniture World: “What sort of pay plans do you offer?”
Katie: “Lindy's offers salary plus commissions. We interview in-house and hire the most honest, hard-working employees we can find. There are several talented designers in the stores. Molly Lamp, is at ‘Simply Home by Lindy’s Furniture’ in the Hickory Furniture Mart. Cessy Smith, Owner/Designer, is working at the Lindy’s Furniture site in Connelly Springs. Our designers also help to stage our showrooms.”
Furniture World: “What types of design assistance do you offer to Lindy's customers?”
Katie: “We design for customers in the store at no charge. They can also pay for in-home services if needed. Most of our customers get the help they need on-site at no cost. Some even bring in their house plans for us to help place furniture, and occasionally bring paint swatches, etc.”
Furniture World: “Do you stage events at the stores?”
Katie: “We do stage events! The next one is a fully catered 100th anniversary party with grilled food and ice cream.”
Furniture World: “We noticed some interesting promotions on your website, one was a recliner giveaway. Are these promotions popular?”
Katie: “Our giveaways are a great way to show appreciation to our customers and occasionally bring in new customers who haven’t heard of us.”
Furniture World: “Your community outreach, are there special charities you support?”
Katie: “We support local families with furniture donations. We also give items to local charities.”
Furniture World: “Advertising! What works best for you? We’ve seen some sharp print ads and, of course, there’s your website?”
Katie: “Hmmm, not sure we want to give away our secrets! But, keeping that competitive advantage is key! I can say that we don’t do any TV or radio. We mostly follow the more current advertising trends.”
Furniture World: “Your design and product inspiration, does it come from Markets, foreign travel, reading, the Internet?”
Katie: “We go to all the Furniture Markets at High Point. We have been to Vegas in the past. We do get inspiration from TV, print, etc. It’s hard to tell where all our ideas come from but, when they do, we are sure the customers are excited because it means a new experience for them every time they enter the showroom. We want to be like Disney, same excellent experience, but always add new and interesting attractions.”
Furniture World: “All of you at Lindy’s are in prime position to comment and/or advise us about multi-generational business and succession issues. Diplomacy and good common sense are factors?”
Katie: “Our most important advice is get debt free as soon as you can. This way when recessions come, you are stable. You can also provide your furniture to your customers at a more cost effective option.”
Furniture World: “How do you all see the future of Lindy’s?
Katie: “No question! Another 100 years!”
Furniture World: “And the future of the home furnishings industry?”
Katie: “Right now it is flourishing! Home sales are up in North Carolina. These have to be decorated and customers want to know the furniture store they purchase their home furnishings from will be around for a long time. We have that reputation... HERE TO STAY!”
Furniture World: “You are also very well qualified to comment on the special role of women now and over the past decades in our industry!”
Katie: “With three owners of Lindy’s Furniture being women, I think it is safe to say there is a special role. We make many decisions within the company and are definitely a greater force in numbers.”
Furniture World: “Katie, you mention, as does Lindy, that ‘special 18-year-old granddaughter, Lexi’. Do you think she will be captured by the thrill of the industry and the fascination of design?”
Katie: “Lexi has shown she is a great furniture salesperson working in the store in the past several years. With her excitement and jovial attitude, customers feel right at home with her. I think she will certainly be a great asset as we grow!”
J. E. Hudson and his remarkable descendants were and are overflowing with vitality, imagination, flexibility, perseverance -- and perhaps a trace of stubbornness?! -- gentle humor and kindness, sustained by their beautiful natural environment. They’re risk-takers and believers. And endowed with a powerful line of business women, going forward.
**The book, “Who Moved My Cheese”, by Dr. Spencer Johnson, is defined as a “motivational business fable”. Published in 1998, the text describes change in one’s work and life and four typical reactions to those changes by two mice and two ”little people”. More than 26 million copies have been sold worldwide. The condensed message to readers is: “Change Happens, Anticipate Change, Monitor Change, Adapt to Change Quickly, Change, Enjoy Change! And Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again”.
Janet Holt-Johnstone is retail editor at Furniture World Magazine.