What is the secret to staying in business for 75 years?
“I think the secret is having a loyal customer base,” said Linda Faulkner Shelby, who is the third and final generation of her family to run Faulkner and Taylor Furniture in Williamsburg.
“A lot of the other retail businesses like we are have gone by the way, but I have said for years we have the best customers in the country. They are just good people. If they tell you they are going to do something, they will do it. If you treat them right, then they are loyal to you. I think that is what has kept us here all of these years.”
After 75 years in business the store is closing its doors in a few short weeks.
Linda Shelby said that she and her husband, Bryan, started making preparations to close the store about a year ago, but the official “going out of business” sale started on Jan. 26.
She anticipates the store will be ready to close by late February or early March.
“We are just ready to be full-time grandparents, available grand parents. We are just ready to start a different chapter in our lives,” said Linda Shelby.
“This has been very good, and it is sad to leave especially going back with all this history. There is a part of me that thinks, ‘Oh, no!’ but we are ready. We are just ready. It is time.”
Shelby said that the customers – many of whom are friends – are what she will miss most about the business.
Shelby said some people have been customers for the entire 43 years she and her husband have been involved in the business.
Just as she is the third generation of her family to run the business, Shelby said that some of the store’s customers are the third generation of their family to regularly shop at the store.
“Their parents and grandparents brought them here. They remember. It has been very rewarding,” Shelby said.
Linda Shelby said that when her grandfather started the store in 1942, she doesn’t think he ever envisioned it would still be open 75 years later.
“He had run several stores out in the county. Then he would buy another one and do that. I am sure he just thought he would do that again,” she said. “In fact, he didn’t stay in it the whole time.”
The store actually traces it roots back to the late 1800’s.
In 1890, the store was founded as Perkins Brothers, which was owned by John Wesley Perkins and Pleasant Wade (P.W.) Perkins.
In 1942, Shelby’s grandfather, Joe Faulkner, and his brother, Harold Faulkner, bought the store from the Perkins Brothers and changed the name to Faulkner Brothers.
In 1948, Walter Taylor and Raymond Faulkner bought the store from Harold and Joe Faulkner.
It wasn’t long until Shelby’s uncle, Vernon Faulkner, returned from the service and bought an interest in the store.
Joe Faulkner, her grandfather, also bought back his share of the store.
Shelby said that Joe Faulkner and three of his sons then ran the store for several years.
Linda Shelby’s father, Harold Faulkner, and her uncle, Vernon Faulkner, bought out Joe and Clyde Faulkner’s interest in the store in 1967.
Linda and Bryan were living in Atlanta when they decided to move back to Williamsburg in 1974 and take over a portion of the business.
“We decided that we really didn’t want to raise a family in Atlanta,” she said. “There was an opening here. Uncle Vernon had come to Atlanta to visit and he said, ‘Why don’t you all just come back and go to the store?’ We did and it has been good. My dad was a partner in the store then too.”
In 1994, Linda and Bryan bought Vernon Faulkner’s remaining interest in the store and have run it since then.
Linda said that her daughter and son-in-law, who is a minister, have no interest into getting into the business.
“My nieces and nephews all have different career plans. The sad part is I wish there was somebody else we could leave it to, but there isn’t. They are all going different directions,” she added.
Linda Shelby said she appreciates all the people that have kept the store in business all these years.
“It isn’t any one thing that any one generation has done. It is a cumulative effort and a cumulative patronage that has kept us working way beyond the years of what it should have done,” she added. “This sort of business, you don’t see many more left. We really and truly appreciate all the customers and people, who have kept us here.”
Will be missed
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said that he was saddened to hear the news that Faulkner & Taylor was closing.
“It is a business that has been on Main Street for 75 years,” Harrison said. “It is kind of like Merry’s Flowers. It is just something that was always downtown and you always knew it. While I am saddened, I understand that things change. How many businesses go past 75 years?”
Harrison said that while he is saddened to hear about the store closing, he is happy for Bryan and Linda to “go do what they want to do while they have a lot of life left. I am going to miss them tremendously. It is going to leave a void in Williamsburg.”
Leaving a void
Harrison said that the city has to pick up and move on after the store closes.
“I have already started making phone calls trying to get people in their building,” he added.
Linda Shelby said that the building is owned by several people and they are open to either selling it or leasing it.
Harrison said that one thing the town will have to overcome with the closure of Faulkner & Taylor, and Merry’s Flower Shop, which was in business for 40 years, is that from the outside it looks like something is wrong with the town.
“There is nothing wrong. It is just a choice that was made for the betterment of the folks running the business,” Harrison said. “I don’t think any of this is a black eye for the city as so much as a life choice.”