When a homegrown retailer thrives for 107 years and holds its own against big-box competition, you know it’s doing a lot of things right. And when local folks vote it “Best Appliance Store” 14 years in a row, you know its commitment to customer service is exceptional.
That’s the view of Bill and Polly Shuee and Brent and Lori Shuee, the new owners of Stucky Furniture & Appliance in Fort Wayne. The brothers purchased the business in July from longtime friend and mentor Jim Benninghoff, whose grandfather Joseph Stucky established it in 1914 – years before electricity had come to Allen County.
“The connection between this store and generations of customers in this town runs very deep,” says Bill Shuee. “We have one employee who began working here in high school and just marked her 45th anniversary, for example. The reputation for customer service earned by the Stucky brand is something very special and we only intend to grow it.”
The Shuee brothers bring their own expertise to the Fort Wayne store. Since 1987, they’ve managed a Greencastle, Ind., appliance store established in 1970 by their late father, Bob Shuee. They also own a furniture store in Greencastle and furniture & appliance stores in Brazil and Lafayette, Ind.
“We started as very young boys growing up in the business, cleaning the toilets and sweeping the floors in the store, and then became involved with delivery to peoples’ homes and then sales positions and finally learning the back-office work,” says Bill Shuee. “This helps us relate to the employees in various positions who make a well-run store succeed.”
Bill and Polly live in Fort Wayne. Married 34 years, they became sweethearts in 8th grade and reared two children, one of whom works in the business – a third-generation retailer. Brent and Lori oversee the newly acquired Lafayette store, Beeson’s Appliance; three of their children work in the family business and a fourth is still in college.
Because the Shuees decided to add a furniture line to the Fort Wayne store, they changed the name from Stucky Brothers to Stucky’s Furniture & Appliance. Klaussner and Flexsteel are among furniture brands that soon will be available in the 30,000-square-foot store, along with Serta mattresses, electronic products and most brands of appliances.
“By adding furniture, both upholstered and case goods, we hope to make it easier for our customers to enjoy a one-stop shopping experience,” says Bill Shuee. “With appliances, we offer reliable, mid-line products to fit any budget, but we also offer super-premium brands like Sub-Zero and Wolf for people who want all the bells and whistles.”
The deep product knowledge of the sales staff – Benninghoff called them “service information specialists” – is another feather in the store’s cap.
Because the new owners want to safeguard and grow the store’s strong reputation for customer service, they’re expanding the on-staff team of delivery, installation and repair service professionals.
“Maintaining an on-staff customer service department is very unique these days, but we think it’s essential,” says Shuee. “We have a couple of young folks in training to make sure the skills are being passed along to the next generation. Our people can do the more difficult things, like installing dishwashers or wall ovens – things that require plumbing and electrical expertise. We not only employ six servicemen, but also a manager to oversee and fully integrate delivery, installation and service needs plus two office staff who order parts, handle calls and so forth. When you call us, a human being here in our store – not across the world – answers the phone to help you.”
Stucky’s is price-competitive against big-box retailers because it belongs to a huge buying group.
“It has thousands of member stores and the clout of $19 billion annually in buying power, so that enables us to compete with the big guys.”
The Shuees view their purchase of the Fort Wayne and Lafayette stores as huge steps for their family-owned company. Both markets are much larger than those in Greencastle and Brazil and the family is fully committed to hands-on involvement.
“We still help to unload trucks or whatever else is needed at a given moment,” Bill Shuee says. “We’re just very excited to be here in Fort Wayne. Our family goes way back with Jim [Benninghoff] and that’s also true of the previous owners of the Lafayette store. They were great people to work with and learn from and we’re happy to be here.”
Learn more by stopping in at the store, 5601 Coldwater Road, or by calling (260) 482-8402. ❚