WYOMINGâEd Smith, owner of Chariho Furniture, opened up his suit jacket and pointed to the red, white and blue American flag stitched inside.
âPeople say, âYou canât buy American-made clothing,ââ Smith said. âItâs got to be American-made. I donât think this country would be in the position itâs in if people felt that way.â
For Ed Smith, âMade in Americaâ is more than an empty slogan. Chariho Furniture prides itself on selling only American-made solid-wood furniture. They carry over 100 different brands, 20 of them Amish, and they specialize in pieces made to the customerâs exacting specifications. Everything can be customized, from the wood to the fabric to the finish to the hardware.
âIf people prioritize good furniture, thatâs our customer,â Smith said. âWe have something that people will drive from New Hampshire to buy.â
Chariho Furniture is a true family business, with Smithâs mother Carol Records and daughter Stephanie on the team. The company has grown for 24 of the 25 years since its founding, and Smith believes thereâs plenty of room to keep on growing.
âWeâre helping the economy,â he said. âEvery time we sell something, itâs jobs. Itâs the factory owners, itâs the factory workers, itâs the trucks that bring it to us, itâs the support staff. You need jobs to have a good economy, and weâre supporting that.â
Smith and his business help support the community, as well, donating five percent of every mattress sale to local charities and non-profits. On top of that, Smith said, they have made generous contributions to community projects like the Arcadia YMCA, and Smith has been a member of the Rotary Club for 25 years.
âWeâre big believers in giving back,â Smith said.
The story of Chariho Furniture begins with a 19-year-old Ed Smith, who got hired to do odd jobs for a local furniture store. Eventually he began doing repairs, upholstering and finishing. In 1987, right after Smith got married, the store went out of business.
Smith decided to open his own furniture store with $3,000 from his wedding and a loan borrowed against his parentâs home. The early years were anything but easy.
ââRockyâ is a good term,â Smith said. âFor the first two years, I had to keep convincing my wife that some day Iâd be able to take a reasonable pay out of this business.â
His conviction paid off, and Chariho Furniture saw consistent growth until the recent recession left Smith with stagnating profits and a big decision.
As his competitors went out of business or switched to furniture manufactured in Asia, Smith began to question his business model. In the end, though, he decided to stick with what he knew best and never compromise on quality. Today, he believes itâs the reason Chariho Furniture is still going strong.
âI think we have rebounded so much faster than our competition because we didnât send mixed messages out there,â Smith said. âWe didnât advertise $999 leather sofas from China. We knew we were losing that customer. Thatâs fine. We never deviated from the plan of âwe believe in what we do.â Itâs got to be solid-wood, itâs got to be American-made.â
Though Ed Smith, 47, is far from ready to leave the business, with his mother considering retirement his daughter Stephanie has shown interest in learning the trade.
âI just like the interior design part of it, and I like how everything you can do is custom,â Stephanie said.
Right now, Stephanie is finishing up her psychology major and communications minor at Rhode Island College, but she hopes to explore her post-graduation options by learning more about her fatherâs business.
âI never really encouraged her or discouraged her,â Smith said. âIt was gonna have to be her decision if she ever walked through these doors. I think itâs great that sheâs checking it out.â
Stephanie has her own ideas about how Chariho Furniture can grow its business by expanding its interior design services. With 25,000 square feet of showroom space and a mattress depot next to the original location, Ed Smith believes he can do more without branching out to new locations.
âI want to be hands-on,â he said. âI donât want to manage multiple locations. Weâre already drawing from five states. Iâd rather expand on what weâre doing.â
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Chariho Furniture and Mattress Depot will be offering up to 4 years of no interest financing as well as a weekly drawing for a flat screen HD TV with no purchase necessary for the entire month of October.