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Furniture fixture closing shop
December 25, 2012, 05:00 AM By Ashley Hansen Daily Journal correspondent

Great Western Furniture, a Redwood City store for the past 57 years, will officially close its doors Jan. 31.

The family-owned business at 1748 Broadway lost its lease when their building went up for sale.

"We’ve always offered great customer service (and) pricing has been good; we’ve tried not to carry the same thing that you see everywhere else,” said Phil Gelb, co-owner and vice president of Great Western.

The Great Western chain was founded by Adrian Gruhn, who opened a dozen furniture stores spanning the Peninsula before selling them to independent owners. The Redwood City location is the last of the chain.

Gelb co-owns the store with President John Lobe. The men bought the store from Gelb’s father who had owned it since 1960.

"It was fun, I enjoyed it,” Gelb said of working in the family business. "When I was in high school I’d work on the delivery truck and we were busy. And it was fun because there were people around, and people would come in and enjoy themselves.”

Foot traffic had diminished over the last few years along with its delivery area.

"It used to be a lot busier than it is now,” Gelb said. "We used to deliver to San Jose and San Francisco frequently and pretty much now (only) Redwood City, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.”

Back in the "heyday” as Gelb described it, Great Western was the busiest place in town.

"There used to be some days where you’d open the door and boom, by noon you’ve had a great day already,” Gelb said of the business’ success. "People come in and they’d want to buy from you. And that word spread like wildfire. We had a lot of repeat business. We started and it was the grandparents, and the grandparents told their children, and they told their children.”

Great Western has made an effort over the past 57 years to sell quality, American-made furniture, offer great customer service and good prices. The store also offered in-house financing which Gelb said many of his customers appreciated.

"You knew the customers a lot of times because we did carry our own accounts. They’d come in every month and talk and it was fun, "Gelb said.” I don’t know where they’re going to go. Unfortunately, I think on the Peninsula we’re one of the last ones that will do in-house financing.”

Gelb, who is planning on pursuing a career outside of retail upon Great Western’s final days, has attributed "not changing quickly enough” to keep up with the times to the stores hardships the last few years.

"The secret in my industry these days is to buy in a container, from Asia,” Gelb said. "As times changed, it got to the point where I was unable to get a bank loan to get some inventory (and) that was the writing on the wall.”

As the store enters into its final weeks of business, the goal is to offer quality merchandise at very reasonable prices. Despite going out of business, the furniture sold throughout the store does come with manufacturer warranties.

"We’ve been taking care of the community for 57 years, and we obviously did something right to last that long,” Gelb said. "Let’s go out with a bang.”

For more information on Great Western Furniture visit 1748 Broadway in Redwood City or call (650) 368-1448.

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