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Chesnick Furniture Co. man celebrates life's work

By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
May 30, 2012 at 12:30 a.m.

David Garcia, 90, is considered a member of the family by Bobby Leon at Chesnick Furniture. Garcia, who has worked at the furniture store since 1942, simply comes to take care of business and doesn't even have to punch a time card.

Chesnick Furniture Co. and David Garcia - a history:

• 1920: Ed Chesnick becomes partner and manager with Holland-Amdur Furniture Co.

• 1921: David Garcia is born.

• 1942: Garcia applies and is hired at the furniture store.

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

• 1950: Company builds its current site at 116 W. Juan Linn St. Garcia is among the first two store employees to enter the completed building.

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

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

• 2001: Harold Leon dies. Bobby Leon takes over business.

• 2010: Furniture company hits its 90th anniversary.

• December 2012: Garcia turns 90 years old.

Source: Advocate archives, Chesnick Furniture Co. employees

Chesnick Facebook page

For some companies, it's old photos that document their histories. For others, decades-old records do the job.

Chesnick Furniture Co. has all of that. But the store also has something else up its sleeve - a living, breathing history book.

David Garcia joined the Victoria store in 1942 and, 70 years later, is still on the job.

The 90-year-old Victoria native's career in furniture began with a bit of luck.

He was 20 years old at the time, he said, and in search of a job. After speaking with owner Ed Chesnick, it appeared he had what the company was looking for.

"He hired me," said Garcia, who was perched at a tall table in back of the store. "I was on the truck, making deliveries."

The young man's duties included picking up furniture and transporting it to new homes, he said, but Sundays were collection days.

He recalled driving to retrieve customers' weekly furniture payments, which usually added up to a dollar or two.

"Back then, everybody used to know me," the soft-spoken man said. "They wouldn't even call me by my name. (They said) 'Hey Chesnick, come here. Hey Chesnick.' It's a memory that you'll never forget."

Garcia's recollections of the company blur with his memories of the families who run it.

He said he remembered when current owner Bobby Leon and his older brother, Larry Leon, were born, and the years he spent working with both their father and grandfather. He also remembered when a young Larry rode along on deliveries, telling people his name was Larry Garcia.

It all made sense, Garcia said. Because, after so many years, those co-workers became family.

"Everybody got along," he said. "I lived with them, day in and day out. They are family."

Bobby Leon agreed.

He said he regarded Garcia as a member of the family and appreciated the work he still puts in to the company he grew up with.

"He does what he can, and he's humble, too," Leon said, noting Garcia still loads deliveries, calls customers and works in the warehouse. "We go to him for any knowledge we need."

Store manager Michael Nitschmann said the longtime employee's experience provides a great look back at the company's history.

For example, he said Garcia was one of the first two people to step into the current store once it made the move from Main Street.

Then there were the years he spent making weekly - sometimes biweekly - trips to Houston to pick up furniture with a flatbed truck and tarp to protect the cargo.

"He said Houston was small back then," said Nitschmann, who has been with Chesnick almost 38 years. "There wasn't the traffic you see now. But he always tells stories about the old days."

Those stories provide more than entertainment, he said, noting they bring plenty of that, as well. They also help in day-to-day operations.

"If you run into issues, you can go to him and ask what they used to do back then," Nitschmann said. "He's a good guy."

Today, Garcia rides the bus from the home he shares with his daughter to work his shifts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Although he moves a bit slower these days, he focuses on making repairs, dusting the shop and doing whatever else he can.

Many people he has known through the years have faded out with time, he said, and few who reach 90 continue working. But he said that's part of what kept him going.

"It's like my daughter says," the father of three explained, pausing to readjust his glasses. "Work, work, work. Walk, walk, walk. I couldn't afford to work out, so I stayed working."

He said he didn't know how much longer he would continue to work - old age wears a person out after a while - but he's enjoyed his many years with Chesnick.

"I made a good living," he said. "I didn't get rich, but I made a good living. It's been my life. I just love the store."

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