P.M. Bedroom Gallery built on brotherhood
For his entire life, Ben Huth wanted to be a Wisconsin dairy farmer, just like his parents. After high school, he started working in the field, but when his brother, Arvid, announced he was going to start a furniture store, Ben wanted in on the plan.
"I figured if it did not work out, I could always buy my cows back and start dairy farming again," he says.
But Ben's cows were gone for good, thanks to the success of the brothers' business, P.M. Bedroom Gallery.
The first shop opened in Greenfield in 1993, when Arvid was 21 and Ben was 19. Today, the brothers have three showrooms in Wisconsin and Illinois, two showrooms in Minnesota and two distribution centers.
Arvid admits that Ben wasn't his first choice for a business partner, but decided to give him a chance after his college roommate backed out of the plan. The relationship worked out well, and the brothers say they complement each other's strengths. Arvid handles most of the advertising, financial and real estate aspects of the business whereas Ben tends to day-to-day operations and sales training.
"I trust him 110 percent. We might not always agree on things but we never have not trusted each other," says Ben.
Most of P.M. Gallery's furniture is handmade by Midwestern craftsmen. Because the furniture is made locally -- and because the Huths work directly with the furniture makers -- they are able to save money in fuel and shipping costs, a savings they pass on to the customer. Also, they deliver all of their furniture wrapped in blankets instead of disposable cardboard, plastic and foam.
"We are able to re-use the blanket over and over again which cuts costs and at the same time makes for a cleaner environment, says Ben.
P.M. Bedroom Gallery customers order their furniture in their choice of lumber, stain color and decorative hardware. According to Ben and Arvid, this is a detail that separates their business from competing box stores.
"The recession we are in has turned the consumer away from the 'throw away' attitude of the '90s. Consumers today are more environmentally aware and when they make a purchase today they want to know that they are buying something that will last the test of time and that they will not have to re-buy it in 10 years," says Ben.
"As we say in our commercials, it is not the 'cookie cutter furniture' that is everywhere else," says Arvid.
For years, the Huth brothers used radio and television as vehicles to communicate their business message. Because of their high profile TV commercials, they are sometimes recognized in public.
"I get recognized, but many times I have been recognized by my voice before someone even sees me and then they put two and two together. I don't have a big ego and am not on any power-trip, so it does not mean anything to me to be recognized," says Ben.
Because of the ailing economy and a decrease in home sales, the home furniture business is suffering, but neither Ben nor Arvid fear for the future of their venture. They believe that a high level of customer service and good value will keep P.M. Bedroom Gallery afloat.
"We have always done a good job with slow and deliberate growth, and the economic downturn has hurt our goals for the year, but it will not put us out of business," says Ben.
Arvid attended UW-Eau Claire where he majored in accounting and finance, but was more inspired by his full-time job at a local furniture store. Despite three years of college under his belt and a 3.9 grade point average, Arvid decided to quit school and start the business. He does not regret this decision, even though it's common for the brothers to work until midnight and start working again at 6 a.m.
"When you like to work, it is really not work at all. We have been lucky to find something that we are passionate about and been able to make a living doing it," says Arvid.
Ben is single and lives in New Berlin. Arvid is married and lives with his wife and two children near Boyd, just east of Eau Claire. Two of their three brothers are dairy farmers, but Arvid and Ben say they appreciate the city and the opportunities it provides for their business, even though, in their hearts, they prefer the wide open spaces.
"I still make plenty of trips to Milwaukee and Chicago, but I always love to get home to my wife and children," says Arvid.
"There's an old expression that rings true for both Arvid and I: you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy," says Ben.
While their commercials may be annoying, they got your attention, didn't they? Besides, most commercials are annoying, especially other furniture companies (um, Colder's? Steinhafels??American???) So what. Turn the sound down. And, since PM Bedroom Gallery isn't paying big $$ for some ad agency to create a probably equally-annoying commercial, they're able to keep their prices lower. If you prefer to go buy cheap chinese-made crap at a big box store because their commercials are slightly less irritating, go for it. I like PMBG because they work with in-state woodworkers and sell quality products, and are family-owned.
Nell | April 29, 2009 at 4:37 p.m. (report)
I think it's great to be able to maintain a family-owned business in these times. Having the brothers do the commercials and such really personalizes them. Good luck! Great article and great furniture!
The commercials are really, really bad. They look so uncomfortable and so unnatural, which in turn makes me uncomfortable watching them. It doesn't make me want to shop at their store at all.
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