Making it in a man's world: Ashley Furniture manager carries on family business


March 10, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 9, 2012 at 9:10 p.m.

As a full-time wife, mother of two and manager of one of Victoria's largest furniture stores, Paige Streiff doesn't have much free time on her hands.

But, busy or not, the Ashley Furniture HomeStore manager still proves it's possible for a hometown girl to make it in a man's world.

The Cuero native was born into the fourth generation of the family business, known then as Stimson Furniture Co., and did her part as she grew.

Sweeping floors and helping in the office were all part of it, she said. And, although she was never forced to join the company, she said retail was always in her blood.

"I saw my dad and grandpa doing what I wanted to do," she said, explaining she watched them work with customers, select merchandise and ensure things were squared away on the business end. "I knew marketing and sales was what I wanted to do."

Streiff graduated Cuero High School and moved on to Huntsville's Sam Houston State University, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in business.

While she got her feet wet in various industries - including clothing and pet sales - she said she realized the place for her was the business in which she'd been raised.

"I found something I'm passionate about," she said. "It's silly I'm so excited about furniture, but I love it. It still hasn't worn off, after 10 years."

If there's anything her time in the business have taught her, Streiff said, it's that the only thing constant is change. Furniture trends advance season to season, just as clothes do, she explained, and it's important for industry folks to stay on top of what's popular.

The current fad? Clean lines, bright colors and shiny finishes.

"And that probably isn't your parents' furniture," she said with a laugh.

Monica Morales, the Victoria store's visual designer, works one-on-one with Streiff, keeping the looks fresh. She said she appreciates her boss' management technique because she offers honest opinions in a positive way.

"I need feedback in my job," she said. "I feel like I can go to her on a personal level but, on a professional level, she's there, too."

Technological updates also affect the industry.

The Internet's constant stream of information means customers are more educated than ever when they walk through the doors, Streiff said. Sometimes they have print-outs and other times they just have general ideas, but that knowledge serves as a good starting point.

Regional oil and gas and business growth doesn't affect the industry as a whole, but has potential to make a big difference to local companies, she said.

"I only see that growing our community," she said. "I'm thrilled to see where we came from in '08 and '09, when everything was on hold."

It isn't all about furniture sales, though.

Streiff said that she and the company work to give back to the Crossroads, where residents have supported them through the years.

An annual breast cancer awareness event has a place on Ashley's calendar in October, she noted, while the company also put together care packages for those in Haiti, following the devastating 2010 earthquake.

"We're smaller - not a metro city, but big enough to make a difference," she said. "I feel very connected to this community."

At this point, Streiff has spent a decade in the world of professional furniture. And while she said she's seen plenty of change, one thing remains constant.

Furniture is still largely a male-dominated industry.

She said it's older men she typically meets with when she goes to market, and the same is true for other aspects of the industry.

But that's OK. Her unique perspective, she said, is actually a leg up.

"As women, we are the target market," she said, explaining it's the ladies who often make design and style choices for the house. "I feel like I can offer some of that insight that other people can't."

Tami Hysell agreed.

The Victoria store manager, another female in furniture, has worked alongside Streiff for five years. She said she and her boss make for a strong team.

"I think her and I can do anything together any guy can do," she said. "We've proved it, and we're going to continue to prove it."



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