Oct. 18--Wilmington once had no shortage of independent, family-owned furniture stores.
In fact there were 14 on Fourth Street alone -- now all closed -- said Steve Stein, owner of G. Stein Furniture at 1019 Market St.
Now, his company will join that list of independent stores that have closed over the years since suburbanization drew people to the outskirts of town and the credit card changed the way people shopped for furniture, Stein said.
He and his wife, Martha, sat down last week in the back office of their unassuming store on Market Street whose windows were plastered with sales promotions.
Mrs. Stein produced a list of two-dozen independent furniture stores that have closed over the years -- Hanover House, Star Furniture, Dixie Furniture, L. Schwartz, Sidney and Kay, to name a few.
In fact, Dixie and Star were owned by Steve Stein's uncles Leon and Noah Stein, respectively.
"If you ran out of something," Steve Stein said of the family competition, "you could ask someone, 'Do you have a set of rails I can borrow?' It was a different time."
Just last year the 90-year-old Carolina Furniture, at North Fourth and Red Cross streets, and Tysinger Furniture Gallery, 6508 on Market Street, shut their doors.
G. Stein was started as H. Stein in 1929 on Fourth Street by Steve Stein's grandfather, Hyman -- hence the H.
After Hyman died it became G. Stein. Why the G.?
"People used to call the store and ask to talk to G. I answered to George or anything," Stein said. "Little did they know that it was Goldie Stein furniture, Hyman's wife."
The store moved to its current location in 2001.
The old store "survived the depression, survived a lot of things -- the war," Stein said.
"What started the move off Fourth Street" was "suburbia in the '60s and '70s, when the malls started. Everybody moved out. There were a few of us that stayed."
But other owners died and still others did not have children who would follow them in the business. "They were victims of their own success," working so the children would be a doctor or lawyer, Stein said.
Buying habits changed as well.
"I used to say we're in the credit business," Stein said. "We sell furniture to people who are on a budget and we provide service for them."
But in the last 15 or 20 years the business has changed, he said. Rather than going to the store for credit, everybody had a Mastercard or Visa, so they could shop anywhere." Before that, "if you sold to Mrs. Smith, her daughter would buy from you."
Stein says it's not money that's prompting him to go out of business.
"We aren't going out of business because we're going bankrupt," he emphasized.
"I enjoyed the business, but ... I want my time."
For retirees, Martha Stein said, every day is Sunday.
Wayne Faulkner: 343-2329
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