With so many online furniture options and the growing number of brick and mortar stores that sell both furniture and appliances, how do you decide where to spend your hard-earned money? For some, the answer is based solely on who has the best prices, for others, it is more about which store offers the best quality products. But for some people, while cost and quality are definitely a factor in their purchasing decision, it comes down to what the company stands for — its social responsibility to the community and its employees, for example. When all things are considered, one St. John’s company retailer has the rest beat on all levels, hands-down.
“Island Furniture is much more than a furniture store. We take social responsibility very seriously and have been doing so since the first day it opened as a manufacturing plant in 1979,” says David Martin, managing director for the company that has come to be known as the leader in the St. John’s retail home and office furniture and appliance sector.
Founder and visionary, Paul. E. Walsh, wanted to create a place where Newfoundlanders could not only find the very best quality furniture at competitive prices, but as well, a place where all community members were given an opportunity to be part of a company that truly cared about its employees.
“Paul Walsh saw the once small manufacturing company as the perfect opportunity to help the people most in need of stable, reliable employment in an understanding and caring atmosphere,” Martin adds.
And that is exactly what he did, and what the company still does 39 years later, according to Martin. “We currently employ seven individuals throughout the company that are developmentally delayed. Not everyone is willing to see these individuals for who they are — some of the hardest working and kindest, most caring people I know,” he says. “All they need is someone to give them a chance to show how dedicated they are to helping others and ensuring everyone succeeds.”
David Horne is one of those model employees, according to Martin. The 25-year-old has been working with Island Furniture for the past three-and-a-half years. In fact, he remembers the exact date he first donned the Island Furniture shirt and became a vital member of the custodial team. “I started working here on September 14, 2015,” he says.
While the business has since evolved from a small furniture manufacturing plant to a retail store, its core values and mission have not changed, explains Martin, which is one of the reasons Horne applied to Island Furniture.
“I was working at the button shop when I heard that Island Furniture was looking for a new employee. I was introduced to Dave Martin and Adam Fox, and I was hired the same day,” Horne says. Both men immediately saw Horne’s sincerity and work ethic, so they hired him on the spot, Martin says.
For Horne, Island Furniture offers him much more than a ‘job’ though. “I have learned many new skills since working here. I have learned leadership qualities and how to help others. I have also learned how to wrap and put together furniture. I am responsible for keeping a large showroom clean and tidy, which I do quite well,” he says with genuine pride.
One of the greatest things about working with the decades-old company, however, according to Horne, is that it has afforded him a sense of belonging. “Island Furniture is like home to me.”
In fact, Island Furniture currently offers this same opportunity to seven developmentally delayed individuals throughout the various divisions of the company, according to Martin. Island Furniture has further provided funding for 1,500 job placements for developmentally delayed individuals since it first opened its doors, a large percentage of those people being outside of St. John’s.
“Since 2000, Island Furniture has also dispersed more than $5 million to various supported employment agencies, businesses and charities across Newfoundland and Labrador,” adds Martin, something they intend to continue doing, he says.
For Horne, the real bonus he gets from working with Island Furniture is the incredible friendships he has developed. “I love to make new friends and I have a lot of fun while I work hard.”
As with any job, Horne says he has experienced some changes over the years. “We are selling less appliances than when I first started. We used to have a larger room full of fridges and stoves, but now it is filled with furniture. We also have a lot of new staff that came from Sears closing. Though they are new, they are working out well.”
A big part of their success, according to Horne, is that Island Furniture “has better furniture then other furniture companies. We also have more fun and have the best staff and friendliest sales people.”
Island Furniture is obviously doing something right because it has grown from a small manufacturing plant to a large retail store with two retail furniture locations and one office furniture location in St. John’s.
For Horne, the most important thing is that he loves his job. When asked what his future plans are, he says, “I would like to still be working with Island Furniture and learning new skills.” And in all likelihood, this will be exactly what will happen since the majority of the employees at Island Furniture have been with the company for many years, a clear testament to its core values and beliefs.
“We believe in supporting the community and its people that have embraced us and that is not something that is going to change,” adds Martin.
For more information, visit one of Island Furniture’s two locations — 428 Empire Ave. or 50 Aberdeen Avenue — or check out their website: www.islandfurniture.ca.