CHESTER — In business since 1985, Chester Furniture is closing its doors forever. Patrons are wondering where they will buy home furnishings in the future.
The store located directly across from Auto Zone has had two owners: Mark Beard and Gary Wright.
On Sunday, a "going out of business announcement" was made on Facebook. Patrons were invited to shop the final inventory, "Everything must go. No reasonable offer will be refused."
As I drove into the parking lot, furniture was flying out the door. Well, hauled by muscle power to truck beds and trailers.
"We've been dealing with this wonderful company for years. They have quality furniture and excellent customer service," Laurel Rothenberger of Chester said. "Twenty people were in line ahead of us before they opened the door this morning."
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Customers were scattered around the showroom looking for something to snag before someone else scooped it up.There was a "Cheers" theme vibe going on… "Where everybody knows your name. And, they're always glad you came."
I spotted Kimberly Lewis, owner of Suit Up Poker League, who I featured in a story years ago. She was quick to share her sentiments about the family-owned business closing.
"I'm extremely sad. I've been buying furniture here for 22 years… kitchen, den, bedroom, living room," Lewis of Prince George said.
After having her sofa for 11 years, Lewis was ready for something different. She stopped by, found one she liked, and purchased it.
"Gary's customer service is the best, bar none. You won't ever get the same anywhere else," Lewis said. "He provided custom orders. If he didn't have what I was looking for in the showroom, he would find it from a catalog."
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Chester Furniture family
Phillip Jarratt of Hopewell moved out on his own when he was 17 and started working at Chester Furniture. He stayed for 37 years with them to experience the family atmosphere.
"We're like brothers. We grew up together," Phillip Jarratt said. "I don't know what I will do now."
Three other employees will be in the same boat hoping to find jobs that feel like home.
For three years, Ashley Jarratt followed in her father's footsteps selling furniture, mattresses and home accessories. She returned to lend a hand until Chester Furniture closes for good.
Ashley Jarratt pointed at a woman's portrait on the checkout counter and said," My sister Mary Elizabeth was named after her. She was the 'female' presence here the longest and kept everybody in check."
The late Mary Elizabeth "Liz" Daul worked at Chester Furniture for 30 years.
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Chester Furniture Facebook friends
"I am devastated! I will miss my sweet friends, Mark and Gary. You have been so good to our family and friends through the years," Shari Smith Rumble commented. "Thank you for everything, and may God bless you in all that you do. Gonna miss y’all."
"So sorry to hear this. My whole house is from Chester Furniture. I still have two leather recliners that are well … over 25 years old. No rips. No tears. Excellent condition," Tammy Jessen commented. "Met Gary and Mark over 25 years ago while I worked in a local law office and haven't shopped anywhere else."
"It breaks my heart. My house could serve as a second showroom for them. I have purchased so much from them for over 25 years," Linda Winger commented. "Always been great to work with and wonderful customer service. Have a great retirement!"
"So sad to see this wonderful place close. I’ve furnished my home from here. Two bedrooms, three living room sets," Deborah Crawley Catoe commented. "Phillip, Marty and Gary always made you feel welcome like an old friend, time to sit and talk. You will be missed, but I hope your retirement is all you deserve."
"Breaks my heart this is happening. Over 30 years of buying from y’all, both my folks and myself," Katharine Frangopoulos commented. "Sad ending to a family store."
"Awe. Love this place and these people. Gary and Mark have always been the absolute nicest guys," Christy Bryant Parrish commented. "Sad to see them go, but I know they have worked hard for many years. Happy retirement guys!"
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"It's bad… when you move to the beach but can't go to the beach, because you're working remotely," Wright said.
The desire to retire was not the only reason Chester Furniture will close for good. The decision was also made in part due to the pandemic which caused prices and waiting periods to soar.
"Special orders were taking 10 months to a year, but that's getting better," Wright said. "However, prices have not."
Chester Furniture is at 351 E. Hundred Rd. The sale is tomorrow 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 12 a.m.-5 p.m. For additional information, follow them on Facebook.
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This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Chester Furniture going out of business after 37 years: Patrons sad