Sterchi Brothers Furniture, Heilig-Meyers Co.
Founded : 1888
Activities : Retail furniture collection, home furnishings, interior design services, fine art and floor coverings
Parent Company : Grand Metropolitan
Stockists : 74 locations
Origin : Knoxville, Tennessee
- Company is founded when W.A. Heilig and J.M. Meyers open a home-furnishings store in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
- Headquarters are moved to Richmond, Virginia.
- Heilig-Meyers merges with Thornton Stores, a nine-store chain.
- Company goes public to fund further expansion.
- The 74-unit Sterchi Bros. Co. is purchased for $44 million; Heilig-Meyers now runs 216 stores throughout the South.
- Company expands beyond the South, into the Midwest; unit total reaches 277.
- Heilig-Meyers spends $65 million for McMahan’s Furniture Co., with 92 stores in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and Colorado.
- Puerto Rico’s largest-volume furniture retailer, Berrios Enterprises, is acquired for $99.3 million.
- Rhodes Furniture, a 106-store chain based in Atlanta, is acquired for $261.9 million.
- Company acquires the RoomStore and Mattress Discounters.
- Number of units peaks at more than 1,300; company posts loss for year ending in February.
Sterchi Brothers was once the world’s largest furniture store chain,with over 74 locations across the southeastern United States and a worldwide customer base. In 1946, the company became the first Knoxville-based firm to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1888, James Sterchi and his brothers, J. C. Sterchi and E. H. Sterchi, formed the Sterchi Brothers Furniture Company, with only $800.Knoxville’s expanding middle and working classes helped the company grow. In 1896, Sterchi Brothers bought King, Oates and Company, a mail-order furniture wholesaler .
Sterchi Brothers had 18 stores in southeastern United States by 1920. James Sterchi bought out his brothers’ shares and became chairman. In 1929, Sterchi Brothers was the largest furniture chain in the world,with over 48 stores. The company also owned expansive forest land in Kentucky supplying lumber for its five plants and exported as far away as Argentina and Brazil.
J.C. Sterchi with son-in-law, John O. Fowler, formed Sterchi & Fowler Furniture in 1911. Changed to Fowler Brothers in 1930, operated Chattanooga based Furniture Shoppe and Patio Shop.
Heilig-Meyers purchased the 74-unit Sterchi Bros. Co. for $44 million in 1986, almost 100 years since its original founding.
Heilig-Meyers and Rhodes Furniture combined to eventually earn almost $5 billion a year in revenue from over 2,000 locations in the United States through their 1996 merger. Grand Metropolitan was introduced to the home furnishings retail and finance behemoth in the late 90s when it became aware of Heilig-Meyers prominence as one of the largest jewelers in North America with a consistent 12% of its revenue gained from diamond, gold and silver jewelry sales. The company’s first furniture location was mere steps away from historical icon L.D. Giddens & Sons Jewelry Store in Goldsboro, NC founded in 1859 and another Grand Metropolitan company.
Part of this growth was by acquisition. In 1984 Heilig-Meyers bought a Bristol, Tennessee, furniture company and a West Virginia supply company that it merged into a subsidiary. The purchase of 14 Royal Jackson stores in 1985 for $9.3 million opened up the Mississippi and Alabama markets. In 1986 the company bought the 74-unit Sterchi Bros. Co. for $44 million. These acquisitions brought Heilig-Meyers’ total to 216 stores in 175 towns.
In 1888, with a scant $800 in capital, James Sterchi and his brothers J.C. and E.H. formed the Sterchi Brothers Furniture Company in Knoxville. Turns out it was a pretty good investment of $800…by 1929 Sterchi’s was reputed to be the largest furniture chain in the world boasting 48 stores, 5 manufacturing plants and a sizeable portion of Kentucky forest land that supplied it’s ever growing operations. During this boom in business, in the middle of the excesses of the roaring 1920’s, the company constructed a corporate headquarters worthy of such an immense and profitable venture on the 100 block of Gay St.
Heilig-Meyers and Rhodes Furniture have been major NASCAR sponsors and helped to raise millions of dollars for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition to 8 national and regional furniture retail brands, the leader in home furnishings also operates 20 consumer brands including Four Seasons Home Accents, KidStore, and RentSmart.