Managing New Ulm Furniture for nearly eight decades has always been a family affair, requiring dedication and long hours.
When current owner Ben Pieser was born, his father was unable to leave the store to bring his wife and new son back from the hospital.
“It was Friday night and the stores were open and my dad didn’t want to leave the store. So the store delivery guy drove us home.
Pieser started a store closing sale this week as he prepares for retirement.
“It’s bittersweet. The store is 76, I’m 75, and I’ve been doing this for 53 years. I work 65 hours a week. It will be a new chapter in my life, ”he said.
“On the first day of the sale, customers, some with tears in their eyes, stopped to remember and offer their best wishes,” Pieser said.
Ann Wendinger and Jackie Forst own Sewing Seeds Quilt Co. in New Ulm and have long looked to New Ulm Furniture for furnishings and flooring for their home and business.
“My account at New Ulm Furniture is still under my maiden name and I have been married for 33 years,” said Forst. “It’s the community, it’s the family, that says a lot about the way they do business.
“My house could be a museum of new Ulm furniture,” she said.
Wendinger said that in all of the years she worked in retail, she rarely, if ever, met someone like Pieser.
“He’s still wearing a suit and tie, always. Always gets up when he greets you. Always smile when he greets you. He’s an icon in town. There aren’t many companies, other than farms, that can say they have had a family business for 76 years, ”Wendinger said.
Forst said the staff at the furniture store, many of whom have been there for more than 25 years, also deserve to be recognized. “They are dedicated. They will remember the flooring you laid in your home 20 years ago.
Forst and Wendinger said Pieser was also one of New Ulm’s biggest promoters and supporters.
“He is dedicated not only to his business, but also to this city which is reaching a whole new level,” said Forst. “He supported the city with his business, his generosity and his community involvement.
Built on relationships
The store was opened by Ben’s parents, Richard and Sara Pieser, in 1945 after Richard was discharged from the military. Sara worked in the store until a few days before her death at the age of 92.
Ben attributes the store’s success and longevity to customer service and the relationships it builds.
“We have always had a great choice and are known for our personalized service. We sell furniture to young people who have sold furniture to their grandparents and parents. We know each other and are friends and family.
The original store was on Minnesota Street until it moved to its current location on German Street in 1959.
The store is full of furniture and accessories of all kinds on the ground floor and lower level. There are also three warehouses used to store more furniture.
Pieser’s wife Vicki delivers work for the store and their daughter Betsy is employed full time. Their son Joshua cleans the store once a week.
After the store closes, Betsy will expand her travel business, The Details, and pursue other retail ventures.
Pieser said a lot has changed in the furniture business over the years.
“There is a lot more to choose from now. People can buy online, of course, or at least watch what they want online and hopefully they will always stop and buy from us.
And while furniture once featured only a few styles of sofas or chairs and few color choices, custom orders for a wide variety of upholstery and styles are now the rule.
Pieser said the pandemic has resulted in unusually long wait times for special orders, but he said all customers who have orders will receive their furniture when they arrive.
With the closing sale over in about two months, Pieser looks forward to some free time.
“I haven’t taken a vacation for three years. I have a wife, three children, three grandchildren and three large dogs.
And he’s looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. “We will go to a warm place.”