When Elias Schewel began peddling household goods from the back of his horse and buggy in 1897, he had no idea what would kind of business he was building for the future. Today, his once small business has boomed, making it one of the oldest, family-owned companies in the Lynchburg area.
What made Elias Schewel’s product so unique, was that he let customers finance their purchases. Today, over 100 years later, Schewels offers the same benefit and provides a flexible plan that suits a wide range of budgets.
Eventually, Elias sold his business to his sons and they, along with their sons, have carried on his vision over the past century. Now they have 51 stores and over 600 dedicated employees. They carry home furnishings as well as bedding, appliances, electronics, outdoor power equipment, and decorative area rugs.
How can we learn from Schewels’ long-standing success?
Here are three lessons that every business – large and small, old and new – can benefit from.
1) Emphasize Customer Service
Schewels puts its customers first. The stores offer low monthly payment plans, one-year warranties, sell name-brand products that people trust, and finance in-store so there is no third-party involved. This is what made Schewels so special back then, and what continues to differentiate the retailer from competitors in Virginia today. Schewels is the only furniture store in Virginia that will finance a customer’s purchase on the spot. By understanding buyers’ needs, sticking to its original vision and mission, and taking care of its customers, Schewels has been able to scale remarkably over the years.
2) Be Ready for Change
In the beginning, each individual store bought their own furniture, hired their own people, and did their own advertising. Now, everything is based out of one Lynchburg location and distributed from there. In doing so, Schewels was able to streamline its process and regain control of its branding and advertising as it continues to expand to new locations.
3) Be Honest
At Schewels, their team believes in doing what they say they will. If a customer’s product breaks during the first year, the company will take care of it. Keeping the customer happy means staying true to your values. Elias thought out-of-the-box when he built his company and, here we are, over 100 years later, still benefitting from his commitment to building a customer-centric business.
Want to learn more from another century-old local business? Here is business advice from Fleet – a local pharmaceutical mogul that started off small in downtown Lynchburg.