Verna Alford to retire, bringing Alford’s Furniture to an end
REGINA, Saskatchewan – At the end of November, Verna Alford will retire from the furniture business and shutter the business she and her late husband have operated here since the mid-1960s.
“I enjoy this business, and I will miss it, but everything comes to an end, and my run is over,” Verna Alford, owner and operator of Alford’s Flooring & Furniture, said in a recent interview.
Wayne Alford, Verna’s husband, began the company as Alford Flooring. It was in 1974, at Wayne’s urging, that Verna joined the business and it diversified into furniture. “At the time, I was going to local furniture stores and picking furniture for people when he was doing the flooring, he said, ‘why don't you go into business for yourself’?” she remembered.
In 1981, Wayne Alford was suddenly gone after suffering a major heart attack, and the business was undermined by the local economic downturn. “I made the huge decision to carry on,” said Alford. “The return to prosperity was a long and slow process. We had the Bank of Montreal standing behind us, interest rates were 18%. At the time, we had staff who had been with us for years, one of the reasons for carrying on.”
Through thick and thin, Alford’s Furniture has been deeply involved in its community, participating in the Festival of Trees and assisting with the renovation of the Humane Society, for example – and even running in parades.
Alford’s brother built a pirate ship out of hardwood samples. “Once, we ran it in the Grey Cup parade,” said Alford. The vessel was so large a parade official nearly rejected it, but it ran without incident, to the delight of onlookers. “You would have thought it was a train running when the crowd started to roar as we went along the parade route. It was great advertising for the store.”
Alford is proud of her role in the community, of providing high-quality furniture that withstands the test of time, and of bringing new and elegant design choices into the Regina market, but it is the people around her that she finds the most gratifying. “My source of pride is the number of years that the staff has stayed with me – it’s unbelievable,” she said. “So, I take pride in the fact that the whole operation was supported by the customers, and the staff, and our suppliers.”
Now 82 years old, she told the Regina Leader Post that having a team she trusts to take care of everything left her free to do what she loves: talking interior design with the clients and setting up the showroom floor, something she’s done six days a week for quite some time.
Alford has also provided interior design services for dozens of buildings across both Canada and the United States, including private houses, funeral homes, the Hotel Saskatchewan and the Grant Hall Hotel in nearby Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which she also owned for a number of years.
Certainly, there is little more to accomplish in her chosen field. “I need to retire,” she said. “I’ve done it all.”
Alford enlisted Rob Middleton of Smith Business Solutions to conduct her retirement sale, which was prompted when she sold her building on Regina’s 4th Avenue. “We brought in a professional to do it because, that way, it is handled up-front by him and our people do not have to come in and say, ‘This lady has dealt with us for 45 years – could she get a little bit more off’?” she said. “He manages it, and he does the advertising.”
Middleton was happy to apply his expertise. “There’s a pricing strategy and marketing plan involved with a successful going-out-of-business sale that a normal retailer wouldn’t be familiar with and managing this type of sale is hard to do with just your existing staff,” he said. “Our program can generate 12 months of sales in just 12 short weeks.”
“It’s hard for a retailer to increase to that type of pace if you’re not prepared for it and unsure what to expect. There are lots of details that can’t be overlooked if you want to have a profitable retirement sale,” he continued. “We have the expertise, additional sales staff and a complete marketing plan to reach these levels. Most independents owners have been involved their whole life, and this often is a very emotional time. I was more than happy to help Verna retire.”
Editor’s Note: Andrew Livingstone, a freelance writer based in Regina, contributed to this report.