Time to hit the recliner! Longtime Lyons furniture, appliance store closing | Business


LYONS – The Herman Brothers front door ad says it all: ‘Well, we just got old!’

Age coupled with no one in the next generation interested in taking over the business means a mainstay of downtown Lyon is selling and closing its holdings.

GOne Herman, 70, recently sat at a counter surrounded by washers and dryers, with stoves and refrigerators in the room to his right and lounge chairs and chairs in the showroom to his left.

Herman’s father Dewey and uncle Walter founded Herman Brothers in 1945 after serving in World War II. They first opened a home appliance repair shop on Canal Street, across from the company’s current Geneva Street home, to which they moved in the early 1950s and at that time also expanded into sales.

Gene Herman was heavily involved in the family business from a young age, putting in hours before he hit the payroll as a 14-year-old at Newark High School. He’s done everything from working in the warehouse unloading furniture, to the delivery drives and maintaining equipment, to being a builder.

Herman was a liberal arts major at Monroe Community College and was planning to continue his education at Syracuse University—with an interest in law school—when his father and uncle approached him in 1973 or 1974 about doing business with them, eventually moving them to the United States could retire.

“It took me all summer to make up my mind, and I decided, ‘I think I’ll try,'” recalls Herman, who was the store’s manager by the age of 30 and president of the company by the age of 35.

After a life in the furniture business, Herman is ready for retirement. The same is true of two of his longtime employees: Sales Manager Bill “Woody” Woodward, who has been with Herman Brothers for 25 years, and Service Associate Mike Jones, who has been there for 35 years.

Herman Brothers started out as a service/repair shop. Herman said the commitment to service continues to differentiate the home appliance/furniture business from its major competitors.

“We didn’t give customers 1-800 numbers,” he said. “We took care of it.”

Also, selling the necessities of modern life has helped keep the business stable.

“People still need a fridge, let’s face it,” joked Herman.

At its peak, the store had about 15 employees; now it’s only six. Herman recalls a time when the place was so busy that three crews worked at Sampson Naval Base in Romulus.

Aside from its service niche, Herman attributes the company’s longevity to hard work and “survival” instincts during tough times like recessions and the pandemic. He belongs to several purchasing groups in order to have access to competitive prices and has had the autonomy to choose the products that he can rely on to sell.

Herman Brothers stocked all major American appliance brands (e.g. Maytag, Amana and GE); Herman said he shied away from LG and Samsung because of quality and parts issues. The main furniture brands stocked by the store are La-Z-Boy, Jackson, Catnapper, Ashley and Mega Motion, as well as mattresses from Sealy and Tempur-pedic.

The three floors of the main building are organized with bedroom furniture on the lower floor, upholstered furniture and appliances on the ground floor and dining/dining area furniture on the upper floor. Herman also owns two other buildings north and east of the main store on Geneva Street for storage and mattress space.

The store’s customer base is centered in Wayne, Ontario and Seneca counties. Its closure is the second in Wayne County in five years; Barbara Jean’s Furniture in North Rose went out of business in 2019.

For years, Herman Brothers has been the Elder Statesman in the sale of furniture and homewares, and has seen other companies come and go. Herman has kept track, saying that 75 similar businesses have closed in the Finger Lakes since his father and uncle started in 1945.

For a period of about 20 years, Herman Brothers also had a side business selling motorcycles, snowmobiles and lawn and garden equipment, but when it took over he did not want to oversee either and chose to focus on selling furniture/equipment focus.

Survive Covid-19

Herman’s larger customers include residential groups and fruit growers in the area; he has provided their workers’ dwellings with appliances and mattresses. During the pandemic, this store stayed open and weathered tough supply issues better than most due to its large inventory.

“We had a lot of stuff, and luckily we had it,” Herman said, although that wasn’t the case with freezers: He kept a waiting list of at times 80 people who wanted one, and was calling a few each week when that happened Product Dripped In.

Covid-19 has also changed prices drastically, Herman said, noting that for 25 years the prices of furniture and appliances were basically about the same – with only minor fluctuations – but now prices have risen enormously. A freezer that used to retail for $199 now costs $100 more.

Although Herman announced the store’s closure about a month ago, it remains unclear when the doors will finally close.

“I have a huge amount of product in stock, so I have to liquidate everything, and I can’t tell you when that’s going to happen,” he said, joking, “When I get to a lounge chair, I’ll call you.” It’s going to be one hell of a deal for you.”

Traffic at stores has been steady since the announcement, and Herman said shoppers won’t find cheaper prices elsewhere. But despite the deals, many have expressed dismay.

“You’re sad,” Herman said. “I would guess that everyone in the village has bought from me before. In fact, we’ve had people arguing with us. “You can’t close.” … They have relied on me and my family to take care of their needs (furniture and appliances) for many, many years.”

Lyons supervisor Jim Brady said almost every piece of furniture in his home, bar the antiques, was from Herman Brothers.

“It’s a long-established business in town and it’s run very well, especially in this business climate,” said Brady, who wished Herman “all the luck in the world; I don’t know what the plans are for the building but hopefully we’ll get some other vendor there.”

Herman’s retirement plans are unknown. He’s planning hip surgery and “after I recover from it I’ll see how I feel.” He owns a cottage in Adirondack and may spend more time there.

One of the greatest gifts of running his own business for so many years – aside from serving in his hometown – is the friendships he has formed with other shopkeepers across the country, some of whom he is in touch with on a daily basis. He is also grateful to the employees who have helped Herman Brothers survive and thrive over two generations.

“I’ve been fortunate to have great employees,” Herman said, although he pointed out that finding good, loyal employees is a lot harder these days. “For me, that is the key to every business.”

This help has ensured a satisfying career.

“I know I’ve spoken to hundreds of people who have complained about going to work,” Herman said. “I’ve never had that problem. I’ve always been willing to go to work every day of my life I think.”