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Chesnick Furniture Co. marks 90 years

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 30, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 4, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.

Chesnick Furniture has called downtown Victoria home for 90 years. Originally named Holland-Amdur Furniture Company on Main Street, Ed Chesnick purchased the business, changed its name to Chesnick Furniture Company in 1944 and moved it to its current location at the corner of Bridge and Juan Linn streets in 1950. The family-owned business continues to sell selections of fine furniture today.

CHESNICK FURNITURE CO., A TIMELINE:1920: Ed Chesnick becomes partner and manager with Holland-Amdur Furniture Co.

1944: Chesnick purchases Holland-Amdur, changes name to Chesnick Furniture Co.

1950: Company builds its current site at 116 W. Juan Linn St.

1956: Chesnick Furniture Co. adds second floor to store.

1968: Ed Chesnick, the company's original owner, passes away. Harold Leon takes over business.

1982: Business becomes computerized.

2001: Harold Leon passes away. Bobby Leon takes over business.

2010: Furniture/Today announces the company as supplier of the year. Company also hits its 90th anniversary.

DID YOU KNOW ... ?Employees always tried to get to the ringing phones before former owner Harold Leon got to it. Although the head of the company, Leon often answered with a gruff, "Whatcha want?" when answering the line, which might be offputting to some customers.

A stroll through Chesnick Furniture Co. in downtown Victoria is a mix of old and new.

Pristine couches, chairs and table sets line the massive show room, while portraits of previous owners and historical company events reminisce back to earlier years.

And, for the locally-owned company, there have been many earlier years.

Chesnick Furniture Co. is 90 years old.

The company got its start with Ed Chesnick, who immigrated to Victoria from Russia. He joined on as manager and partner with Holland-Amdur Furniture Co. but, in 1944, purchased the business and made it his own.

That's when Chesnick Furniture Co. was born.

At its start, the company was a "sell everything kind of business," said Bobby Leon, owner and president. It offered items such as appliances, space heaters, floor coverings and bicycles.

At the time, the business sat on Main Street, with two locations across the street from one another. It moved to its current Juan Linn Street location in 1950.

Few people know the business as well as David Garcia, who's worked with the company since December 1942. He began working deliveries at age 20 and, although he's moved on to other roles, has remained on through the years.

He remembered the day the company moved. Although a major overhaul, he said the relocation went smoothly.

"Everything we brought into the store was new merchandise, and we pretty much had it organized to where we knew where everything would go," said Garcia, who jokes that he's still on probation with the store, even after so many years. "Everything fell into place, and, even today, I still think it's one of the nicest, oldest stores in Victoria."

As the years progressed, the company saw change - and not just when it came to furniture styles.

Chesnick phased out its older business model to focus solely on furniture and, in 1956, added on a second floor.

Sally, Ed Chesnick's daughter, and her husband, Harold Leon, also made their way to Victoria in 1956 when Chesnick became ill. Although they'd only planned on a 30-day stay, they never left.

Harold Leon took over the store in 1969 and, among other things, incorporated technology into the business plan, Bobby Leon said.

"We computerized in the early '80s, and technology has really just developed from there," he said, explaining it changed the way employees carried out orders, deliveries and simple day-to-day operations. "We got a website back when you could begin having one."

Other changes included the way Chesnick Furniture Co. handled payments. The business ran its own accounts receivable until about 15 years ago, Leon said, but eventually stopped acting as its own financing company.

Change is important when it comes to the business world, said Bobby Leon, who took over the company in 2001.

"You can't just stay where you are," he said. "Things are always changing. There are new products and innovation."

That ability to adjust is part of what Leon said has kept the business strong through the years. With the down economy, for instance, the company focused its attention on necessities, such as bedding, that people would need to purchase regardless.

Good service and the fact that the company is locally owned also helped them continue on, he said.

"Generations of customers have purchased from us," he said. "We know the people we work with. They're our friends."

That friendship extends to other furniture retailers in town, Leon said. They remain competitive, but they're still friends.

The business has had a good run, Leon said, and it isn't over yet.

"We're 90 years old and on our third generation," he said. "We're looking forward to 100. Nobody knows what the future holds, but we will strive to keep going for many years to come."

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