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Retail Success Story: Schneiderman’s- The Call Of The Couch

Furniture World Magazine

Volume 144 NO.6 November/December

The Review!

We’re assuming you have a copy of Larry Schneiderman’s blockbuster, “Call of the Couch”, conveniently close at hand for ready reference, or at least it’s at the top of your priority list of future purchases!
The title suggests numerous provocative avenues of thought if you let your mind wander a bit. But the author, President of Schneiderman’s Furniture, defines his intent in the sub-head, “A Family’s Love Affair with Its Business”.

This is no ordinary handbook or manual to success. Its 211 pages read like an engaging novel with heady, totally unexpected, overtones of murder and mayhem, and a constant flow of genial humour interspersed, sadly, with moments of human tragedy. But its essence is an appreciation of the essential characters at the heart of the founding and evolution of this remarkable, almost seven decades long, retail adventure.

“Couch” is well organized for an uninterrupted read and hits a high point when you reach the chapter where Larry earmarks “What I’ve Learned”. Have a pad and pencil ready to take copious notes. You are guaranteed to find concepts and philosophies and clear, definitive suggestions that will stimulate both thought and action. And, too, you’ll discover an engaging personal empathy as you absorb Larry’s experiences and touchstone conclusions.



If you are shopping for a good read now that the cooler months are upon us, something absorbing, informative and downright exciting, don’t go to that latest Grisham or Atwood potboiler, look instead to “Call of the Couch”. Its knock-your-socks-off drama kick-starts a warm family tale and then evolves into one of the most insightful “how-to” handbooks of the home furnishings industry.

Don’t buy just one copy for your own library. You will need several for friends and colleagues.


The Story!


Schneiderman’s Furniture, was founded in 1948. Today there are six large stores in the Minnesota cities of Duluth, Lakeville, Roseville, Woodbury, Plymouth and Rochester, with 200 staff.

Strictly speaking, the Schneiderman’s U.S. saga came to life when Larry’s grandfather, Russian-born Elias, first stepped on North American shores. At a family gathering in the ‘80s that included Uncle Harry, Elias’s older brother, Harry remarked, “You know your name isn’t really Schneiderman, it’s Mintczer.” That statement understandably engaged everyone’s attention! Then Harry went on to say, “Elias arrived in 1905, and he couldn’t speak English very well. He thought when the Immigration Officer asked his name that he’d said ‘What do you do for a living?’ So, Elias replied,’Schneiderman.’ Translated, Schneiderman means ’tailor man’. So he became Eli Schneiderman, but his real name was Elias Mintczer!” Uncle Harry was like that.

Larry’s volatile, larger-than-life father, Max, was born in New York City in 1910, but Elias soon moved his growing family west to Duluth, Minnesota, probably, the family surmises, because he couldn’t find work in New York. Energetic Max’s adolescence was difficult, but he found himself a job at the steel plant and became an active member of the Naval Reserve, service that continued for five years during World War II.

One very lucky day, on a blind date, he met Edna Kretzschmar, a nurse in training, daughter of a Lutheran pastor. Another exceedingly important moment in Schneiderman history! Edna was an “amazing woman” who owed some of her chutzpah to Josephine, her mother, who had raised Edna and her five siblings. Josephine saw to it, through hard work and persistence, that her children were “educated, solid” citizens who went on to live successful, productive lives.



Vital to Larry’s “Call of the Couch” was Edna’s well-written and insightful journal. It’s a treat that lies in wait for the reader since Larry quotes her frequently, linking family happenings with Max’s strong desire to build his own business. Max had the opportunity to stay in the Navy as a career but family necessity governed his return to the steel industry. Then came that fateful classified newspaper ad and a car trip to Elmer, Minnesota, to view a problematic grocery/general store and post office. They bought it when the fabled Josephine loaned them $5000 for the down payment. And, again dear reader, you won’t believe what happens next!

Recapturing the history of this vibrant family led naturally to the knotty but fascinating question of succession. And the on-going mentoring that aids and abets effective succession. Larry offers his reflections.

Succession

“I was still a young man and we were a single location business when I sold some furniture to an older man who owned a small clothing store in Duluth. He shared that he still worked 50 hours a week and had just turned 70. His two sons worked for him and he went on to say he was getting tired. I asked him, ‘Why don’t you let your two sons take over?’ He responded, ‘They’re not close to being ready, no way.’ I probed, ‘How old are they?’ He pondered for a couple of moments and answered, ‘Forty-six and forty-four.’

“It seemed ridiculous to me at the time, but now I can see how this could happen. As time goes by, we begin to remember what we’ve done to keep the business viable, we remember the sacrifices we’ve made; we may even have the self-awareness to know we may have left too much of ourselves in that business. I admit I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and it seems unappealing and even scary to think about separating my identity from the business.



“Now add to that a lingering question or two or more about differences between the aging owner and the next generation. My wife, Sheila, needed to remind me, ‘Remember how you and your Dad differed. Remember him telling you never to advertise; never to have a sale; and never to pay commissions?’
“But my Dad wasn’t cool like I am! Jason (Larry’s son, now in the business) should hang on every word. Right...!

“In the case of Schneiderman’s, my long-time partner, my brother Russ, passed away three years after he retired. It wasn’t easy for us to pay those life insurance premiums all those years, but we had a buy-sell agreement funded with life insurance.

“Back in 1968 when I was 19, Dad had incorporated the store. He got 25 per cent, Edna 25 percent and each of five of the children, 10 per cent.

“I think I would have liked my two daughters to be involved in the business, but neither one wanted that. Fortunately, my son has the same fire for the business as I do. I have known for a long time I am fortunate indeed this is the case. I also know it’s difficult for me to simply let go. For this reason, when it came time for us to structure an agreement, I did NOT want to retain control. He deserves my trust and knowing he really does have the final say gives him confidence.

“What would we have done had we not had a son to ‘carry on’? Operating a business like ours takes a huge personal commitment. While our two daughters (Jodi* and Jenna**) are bright and capable, they don’t have ‘the calling’. The world doesn’t need more people who aren’t inspired by what they’re doing. We may have considered an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), but it’s difficult to say.”

Leadership Styles

Larry’s charismatic Dad had a highly developed knack for mentoring. His philosophies were deeply felt. In particular he spoke his mind about marketing. “Dad proclaimed that his success was based on his three-legged stool of unwavering principles. His beliefs worked for him, but it wasn’t long before the growth of the company required doing the absolute opposite!”

Larry’s mentoring has taken on a different, introspective flavor. In “Couch” he mentions a course he experienced at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, “Leading from Within”. (He graduated from U of M with a BA in Business Administration/Economics.)



He explained, “It was a year-long course and involved several types of leaders from the business world to school superintendents to health care. Most of these people were employed by large companies. As the title implies, we undertook a journey to find out what our true core beliefs are and how we use or don’t use these beliefs in our leadership styles. We explored many aspects of leadership. For instance, we spent several hours with an expert on personality types. In one case, we spent a lot of time learning how to identify ‘Adaptors’, those people who view change as incremental but are often the people who get things done. In contrast, we looked at ‘Innovators’, those folks who like to throw out ideas but have little interest in the nitty-gritty of implementation. Finally, we looked at the people in the middle, the ‘Bridgers’, people who can talk and think with Adaptors and Innovators. Most of us, but not all, fit the ‘Bridger’ category.

“In discussing our own experiences it became plain to me our company was mainly made up of Adaptors or Bridgers leaning that way. For example, let’s say a team is having a meeting trying to solve a problem. After an hour, the group decides on a path. Now, an Innovator is very likely to say, ‘I don’t really think we’ve identified the problem’. This is a real classic line, Innovators don’t stop thinking just because a consensus had been reached. It made me smile at the time because my brother, Phil, would do exactly that. We would have a drawn out meeting and then he would question the question. My brother, Russ, was an extreme Adaptor, which made him an effective Implementer. When Phil would make his comment and Russ was glad the meeting was done, it didn’t make for harmony. And consider this, Russ had to be thinking the whole time, ‘I’m the one who is going to do all the work here’.

“Another example is managing change. We listened to an expert on change and he began the class by asking, ‘Who here loves change?’ Nobody raised their hand. He added, ‘Good, no liars!’

“In the end, the conclusion brought forward was that change is a lot like a white-water rafter tackling a tough and demanding course. At the end, it is a great feeling of satisfaction to have navigated a difficult and dangerous path. It is in that stillness of satisfaction, where you look back and feel good about what you’ve accomplished. The period of actual change is hardly enjoyable for most people. It’s getting through it and celebrating success. Keeping this in mind while implementing change can be the difference between succeeding and failing.

“As I look back on my own ideas about leadership, the ‘Leading from Within’ approach led me to realizing I could be the same person, both in the role as a leader and as a person of faith. I have to make decisions at times which aren’t popular with people. However, if I’m making them for the right reasons and my intentions are good, I can feel comfortable with them.”



Sales Approaches

Chapter 11, “What I’ve Learned”, suggests speculation about how Larry translates his ideas into day-to-day life within the stores. Said Larry, “’What I’ve Learned’ often rings more true for me than it is with others. This is likely because it’s colored by who I learned the lesson from and what my background is compared to others. My younger, formative years (I’m still formulating!) found me in a remote store where most people arrived after driving 35 to 50 miles or more. “ (He sold his first piece of furniture at age 15.) “So, when customers came by and mumbled, ‘We’re just looking’, my brother, Russ, or myself would laugh and respond, ‘Yes, we know you’re either looking for furniture or you’re lost. Are you lost?!’

“We may have only had five customers in a day, but our goal was always to sell all of them. When I walk through our stores today, I love it when we have, for instance, five customers and all five are engaged with a sales consultant. I complement the manager when I see that, and will remind her/him this is better than eight customers and four engaged. What I’ve learned is while overall numbers for traffic, close ratio and average sale are very important, think micro. Think of where those numbers come from . . . people!

“We have at one of our stores one manager in particular who combines an ability to think micro along with her good business sense. So, a month before Thanksgiving, she asked each sales associate to furnish their open business report to her and to note which customers expected delivery prior to the holidays. She also requested notations as to what dates each sales consultant talked with each customer and their updates. One salesperson, not known for acceptable follow-up, handed in her report as complete. The manager decided to check a couple and, guess what, no, the customers hadn’t been called. So, the two of them met to discuss the matter. The sales consultant began, ‘Let me tell you first, you have a serious ‘micro-management’ issue . . .

“I’ve noticed this overused expression is often used by people who eschew details. In fact, an article in the Harvard Business Review said it well, ‘If you’re not micro-managing, you’re not managing.’
“My ‘What I’ve Learned’ rules, if you will, should be common sense. However, just because something is simple doesn’t mean it will be easy to execute. I know I have 10 pounds to lose and I know how to do it. Yet, I haven’t lost the weight. I eat out a lot, I love food, I enjoy a cocktail. Similarly, overcoming bad habits in the showroom can’t be overcome by erratic application.

“My brother, Phil, often commented, ‘Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’.
“We can’t monitor peoples’ behavior to any significant extent and so we depend upon our associates’ good business sense, the instruction we give them, and modeling the behavior we believe is best for all concerned.

“But, in the end, if they believe following these ‘rules’ is in their interest, it can happen and often does.”
Larry told us that his sales associates often ask a potential customer, “Tell me about your room”, certainly a bridge to the individual’s dream. Given a response, the associate does a rough sketch on a piece of paper. “Not a scale drawing, just a rough sketch. This helps with the placement of furniture and identifies a focal point. By doing this, the consultant immediately separates herself from the people out there who don’t service the customer or who will just sell anybody. It’s been proven time and again, a sales consultant can close many more customers this way. What’s frustrating is we have to push people to do it, even incentive beyond their commission. I’m not really sure why people on commission don’t do this, but bad habits are tough to change. Sketching is not new. I learned from my mother a long time ago how helpful this is. When I did it, I also noticed customers asked me to come to their homes more as their confidence in my decorating abilities went from neutral to positive.

“My mother taught me one other technique helpful for both the customer and the company. When I sold a sofa, I would ask the customer what they were going to hang above it. Most had no plan. My mother’s solution was to always have two and only two wall art pieces in mind and say, ‘Could I show you just two pieces of wall art which would look great?’ Plan on bringing them to the sofa. Plan on the customer taking one home with them!”



Sometimes after repeated negative experiences, whatever the cause, a sales consultant might feel rebuffed or depressed. Said Larry, “If we consider our store with the most sales consultants (23) it would be possible to rate them by attitude and number from # 1 to #23. By definition, somebody is always on the bottom. In the theoretical world, it may be advantageous to a company to do as General Electric did under the leadership of Jack Welch. Every department head was required to determine who the lowest 10 per cent performers were and to let them go. It’s not as inhumane as it sounds.

“However, being pragmatic, we are having a very challenging time finding sales consultants to hire. For the most part, people bring their attitudes and personalities with them. We do test for this and we do require two interviews and so we don’t hire anybody for sales unless they appear to have the right kind of attitude and have the right kind of skills or the potential to learn them. I have seen sales consultants develop negative attitudes and I have seen people develop good ones. The store managers have a lot to do with the store attitude. While maintaining the standards of the store, do they show our associates that they are appreciated? Do they thank and praise them where warranted? Are they direct and timely when issues need to be sorted out? Are they understanding when understanding is called for, but also are they assertive and clear when those traits are called for?

“We are a family business. We are not the U.S. Army. If somebody has a question or an issue, we would like them first to work with their manager, but associates are welcome to approach our general manager or Jason and I. Some do. I would rather have somebody come to me with their complaints or suggestions than be upset about it, even for a day .

“It’s extremely unlikely a sales consultant will treat our customers right if our associates don’t think we treat them right. I think one of the common mistakes managers make in this regard is by thinking an e-mail will suffice instead of a brief face-to-face meeting.

“Rejection by customers can cause sales consultants to feel down. Some parts of attitude we cannot change. Still, I would emphasize to all our associates once you’ve done your absolute best, there is nothing more you can do. If they do their absolute best, they’ll do very well.”

Store-to-Store Newsletter

Larry writes the lead column of “Store to Store”, a monthly company newsletter provided to all Schneiderman staff. In Volume 25, Issues seven and eight, Larry talks of “learning from one another”, he highlights timely key goals and he recognizes staff achievements, makes several points about the value of networking sharing a warm personal experience, a Kretzschman family reunion. And he uses the opportunity as a reminder of the power of “word-of-mouth, far more effective than any commercial ad”. Shades of Max!



“Store to Store” also carries a regular column, Display & Merchandising. Well-written by staffers Natalie Stob and Susan Strong, it’s defined as “A monthly article on happenings in display, merchandising and trends from our Schneiderman’s Merchandising Team perspective”. The heading goes on to ask readers to “Let us know what you would like to read about in this article and we will be happy to share our thoughts and perceptions.” Topics range from in-depth descriptions of new product lines and effective display, to “Made in the USA” wall art.

A “Comments” section offers uplifting praise from happy customers naming sales associates, delivery staff and others who’ve contributed to outstanding Schneiderman experiences.

Each newsletter features “New Employees”, short, welcoming vignettes of people, their positions, locations and hobbies. And the section solicits rewarded input in the referral of qualified “new hires”.

Business Resources

Business mentoring is many-splendored and on-going, and Larry reached out to Dr. Peter A. Marino. “I had enjoyed reading his articles in ‘Furniture World’. Initially, I invited him to lead a series of sales training sessions. Peter and I decided we would work together for a year. He taught all of us something. We spent a great deal of time teaching our managers and management human relationship skills. I’ve used memorable quotes from Peter in my book. What I learned most from him is to appreciate our sales team and to express my appreciation to them. He’s a real spirit, a kind and ethical person. Unforgettable, really.”

A constant, selective reader, Larry particularly recommends (once you’ve absorbed “Couch’s messages!) “First, Break All the Rules”, subtitled “What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently”, by business authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, who offer solutions to better employee satisfaction. (Both Larry and daughter, Jodi, endorse this book.) And, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, written by Stephen R. Covey, principles of a character ethic presented as universal and timeless, also well worth perusing.

Manufacturing Foray

Back in 1990, the Schneiderman entrepreneurs surprisingly ventured into manufacturing, “high quality casual dining furniture. My reason for starting American Furniture Craftsmen was I was active in community development at the time and knew this could help. At our peak we had 38 full-time workers. I could write a book on this experience alone. As I look back, it’s amazing I thought I could get into manufacturing furniture when I had no background in it whatsoever. And, even more amazing, we became profitable in 1993.

“At the time, our main competition in the category was two major manufacturers based in California. We essentially modeled our styles (ok, we copied!) after less expensive styles, and then made them better. Everything we made used solid Red Oak.

“Our upholstering quality likely was too good, meaning too expensive to do. We sold thousands of chairs and never sustained a single complaint on tailoring.

“Looking back, I had the good fortune to become friends with Bob Anderson, a real craftsman, but also a tireless worker and committed to seeing the company grow.

“We developed a sales manager-customer service manager, Sean Bakken, who started as a sander and proved to be the perfect match with Bob.

“Our upholstery manager, Kathy Olson, saw to it every chair was done like it was for her own home.
“My brother, Phil, did have manufacturing experience and he worked with Bob and Sean. Phil and I got hold of a book named ‘The Goal’ which is a classic in the manufacturing field. It’s written in a novel form, but the bottom line is just-in-time manufacturing. We had our own little book club as we set up an additional break where people took turns reading the book. We operated our little factory with just-in-time principles.

“At the time, Cochrane Furniture was a thriving company in South Carolina and Schneiderman’s bought lots of it. The two owners, Red and Jerry Cochrane, as a favor came and visited our plant. I was looking for suggestions. They told me they were amazed at what we were doing and asked if they could copy our swivel tilt chairs. We had no problem with that and they did.

“One of my very best days at work was the day I called on Gary Steinhafel in Milwaukee. I presented the line to Gary and he gave Joanne Warner the go-ahead to put in a program. Steinhafel’s did well with our line as did Nebraska Furniture Mart, Homemakers, Goods, Kaceys and many others including Schneiderman’s, of course.

“We sold American Furniture Craftsmen in 1996 and the company went out of business in 1999. Why did we sell the factory? Three things happened. Bob Anderson developed personal family issues and had to leave. My brother, Phil, left for Florida, and I needed to move to the Twin Cities. While we did quite well the last three years, keep in mind there were no imports in the category at that time. When the look started being made in China, it changed everything.”

Staying Relevant

Schneiderman’s continuous search for industry knowledge persuaded Larry to join the national buying group, Furniture First, a purchasing cooperative with over 200 stockholder-members, representing more than 430 furniture stores in 47 states. Larry served on the Board and connected with “many good furniture people. Most important, for sure, is getting to know and sharing information with a great group of retailers. The staff is excellent and continues to help us with various issues and questions which arise. The Furniture First team can be an important resource.

“I spoke at one symposium and afterwards enjoyed a discussion with a group of single-store owners. A hot topic was their difficulties in competing with multi-store competitors, like Schneiderman’s. My opinion is that a well-run single location should win every time. Just as often the best restaurants are family restaurants with a working owner on site, independent furniture stores have a similar opportunity. There are land mines to negotiate. Just as employees often say they like to be part of a family business, if the business is not run as a professional business needs to be, or if employees are treated poorly, the advantage becomes a disadvantage. A single store should also have flexibility to move quickly on new ideas. It’s far tougher when six locations need change.

“A month ago, I was asked to address a marketing class at a local college. The instructor asked me to share how our company has remained ‘relevant’ for over 60 years. This proved to be an interesting topic for me to think about. I believe this is the challenge to every business. If we went out of business tomorrow, would we be missed by our customers and our employees? Or, would we be easily replaced?
“We stay relevant by filling the needs of our customers better than others and by never being satisfied with the status quo. We benchmark, borrowing from others who do some things better, knowing others will do the same with us. We learn from others and share when we can.

“Just surviving is not a long term option. We have to attract good people and we are in a tough period for recruiting right now. Just surviving will not enable us to attract and keep the people we need to be successful. Just surviving will not generate excitement. Just surviving is not a description of a good place to be.

“The lack of women in leadership positions in our industry has been a well-known fact for as long as I can remember. Personally, I think this is a symptom of a larger problem and that is lack of fresh leadership overall. It’s an industry joke about people in top management being recycled through different companies. I was only mildly surprised a few years ago when a general manager was fired from a manufacturer who was a key vendor of ours. I’ll be blunt. The guy is arrogant, doesn’t listen to people, bulldozes over his own team and doesn’t communicate. Finally, somebody fired him and we were glad to see him gone. Market came around a couple of months later and he now had an even bigger position for a larger company. As the expression goes, ‘He landed on his feet’. So, when he came over to let me know he was now VP of Sales for this firm, he actually asked me, ‘Are you surprised?’ I admitted I was. He grinned and responded, ‘Well, you know there are only 100 executives in the furniture world of North Carolina and we just keep getting re-cycled.’ Here was an unusual moment for me. I had nothing to say.

“I think we all fall into traps. When we look for people, we tend to advertise in the same places, even use the same ads. With that approach, we’re going to have similar results and that’s not necessarily bad. Even at the manufacturer level, the people looking for people tend to find people like themselves. So, if the leaders are white males, it takes some desire to change to move from that at hiring time. I do believe younger people are much less prone to this behavior but again, who is making the decisions? There are no reasons why this industry wouldn’t be a good match for women in general for all the reasons we know. What can be done to appeal to capable people regardless of gender?”

And reaching out to the consumer? When Schneiderman’s first expanded to Duluth, Max, of course, rebelled when his family made its ground-breaking decision to advertise, a legacy move! That first ad is an all-time classic, the lead, “3 out of 4 of us Schneidermans think a clearance sale is a good idea” and the visual is priceless. Consumer response was phenomenal. In actuality, it was an early step in the “moving on” process.

Each element of exposure has its own weight in the total mix. Take the revamped Schneiderman logo. “We knew the time had come to create a new logo, so Jason and I got together with Linnihan-Foy, an agency in Minneapolis. At the time,( I’m not sure if they use it today), Rotman’s Furniture used the word ‘fantastic’ in their ads. We thought it was memorable and we began discussing what word we could use as a type of tag line to go with our long name.

“We do a great deal of special ordering and so we started from there with the word, ‘EXACTLY’. We also use it to describe how our customers can get ‘exactly’ what they’re looking for. Larry gives credit to Art Director, Brian Fils, for the choice of fonts and design. Fils struck a corporate nerve by describing the “rich dark brown font” as “comfortable, like a couch”, that it “balances the more corporate but clean Schneiderman’s Furniture”.” That must have struck a bell.

Why “Call Of The Couch”?: Which brings us to a question you might have asked yourself, why the title “Call of the Couch”? Back in the ‘40s when the business was new and things financial were more than tight, the family badly needed a couch for their home over the store. So, always resilient and practical, Max took a part-time job with Marshall-Wells. It was really the beginning. “Dad put a few pieces of furniture in the store and had people ordering from catalogues. It saved customers money because there was no high overhead. And, yes, the title does tie into the story of the family’s need for a couch. However, while I don’t want to sound too heavy about it, I do think of my work as a ‘calling’. I kept this in mind as I wrote the book. Everybody has a path. This has been mine, and I’m thankful”.

Advertising & Research: Carefully crafted television and Internet outreach each pull their own targeted demographics in Schneiderman stores, particularly those messages with a humorous base. “We discovered through our research that many people who hadn’t shopped with us thought we were more expensive than we are. So we mounted the ‘We’re not rich’ campaign. It was funny, people remembered. And came into the stores and bought.”

The 21st century Internet opportunity occasioned more research. “We knew it was necessary to use the Internet and to master a good, interactive website. We found out that over 85 per cent of women shop our website before coming to the store, and Schneiderman’s rates well with women 35 to 62, our most important demographic. Jason oversees our website and we have one in-store employee dedicated to it full-time.

“We’re told that currently about 12 per cent of all furniture is sold over the Internet. I think that when people care about their furniture and how it looks and feels in their home, you can’t improve on a good sales consultant in a good store with good furniture. However, if a person just wants to buy a sofa and not The Sofa, an Internet purchase is an alternative to consider.”

Community Outreach: In 1988, Schneiderman’s celebrated their 40th anniversary by donating 40 rooms of furniture to Habitat for Humanity, “a meaningful way to reciprocate the loyalty that many Minnesotans have shown us. We committed to supplying a living room, dining room, or bedroom set to the next 40 homes built. It was a great success and the first major donation of furniture they ever received.

“We also work with an outstanding organization called Bridging. When a customer buys a piece of furniture from us, we offer to pick up their used piece if it’s in good condition. We then have that item delivered to Bridging, an amazing operation that cleans everything and then provides a shopping experience for families in transition at their locations in Bloomington and Roseville. We’ve recycled over 12,000 pieces of furniture through this program.

“We’ve been involved with our communities through various charities, but our efforts with the Ronald McDonald House have been the most important. As of 2013, we’ve contributed over $450,000 to the Ronald McDonald House largely through our annual golf tournament and auction.

“Our relationship with RMH evolved from my brother Russell’s son, Joey, who at age five died of lymphoblastic leukemia. During his illness, Russ and his wife, Monica, spent a year at the Ronald McDonald House and became believers in their mission. In 2011 there was no golf tournament because Russ was ill and he and Monica had carried the weight of organizing the event since its inception in 1990. So it was with great pride in June, 2012, that Monica, their daughter Molly and I, led an amazing group of volunteers in our first Russ Schneiderman Memorial Golf Tournament. Russ had always wanted to have 144 golfers for the tournament and in 2012 we reached that goal for the first time. And in 2013 we did it again.”
“We’ve sponsored charity-driven events in our stores for RMH, and Bridging and also Parkinson’s Research at the University of Minnesota.”

The Future

2012, a banner year, also marked and celebrated the 100th birthday of Edna Schneiderman, the honoured matriarch and scribe of the family.

Although Larry was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he is as always planning ahead both for the business and his personal objectives. “My kids call me the ‘Over-Planner’. I have reservations for a 12 day trip in late May, 2015, following the Apostle Paul’s route through Greece and Turkey. Sheila can’t handle a trip like this due to her health, but all three of the kids as well as my daughter-in law will be going with me. It will be fantastic. Exactly!

“It’s time for the second generation of Schneiderman’s operating the family business to pass on the torch. I know I still have many good years ahead of me. But for Schneiderman’s to continue to be successful, it needs strong leadership. I am fortunate to have a son with the passion and drive to continue the business.
“Like my father Max’s bold statement about the three legs of his success, perhaps my philosophies and list of business truths will be refuted by future experiences, but I seriously doubt it. (I imagine my father would have said the same!) I guess we’ll have to check back with my son, Jason, in 30 years to find out.”
Will there be a sequel of “Call of the Couch”? I think we could safely bet on it!


*Jodi is an industrial psychologist and counsellor with two masters’ degrees, working now as a college career counsellor in Colorado. Her partner, Chris, should soon earn his PhD. The couple this year adopted a two year old girl from China, “our first grandchild!”

**Jenna, born in Korea, was adopted by Larry and Sheila. She and Larry travelled to Korea when Jenna was a teenager to meet her birth mother. (Consult “Couch” for details.) Jenna did work for Schneiderman’s and “proved to be a top sales consultant”. But a graduate of the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, she is married to Collin, another artist, and they live and work in New York, both doing well. “But, of course, we’d love to have her back in the business!”

Janet Holt-Johnstone is retail editor at Furniture World Magazine.
Read other articles by Janet Holt-Johnstone