Jacob Shevin doesn’t put much stock in generational differences.
He says his youth hasn’t impeded him in his career at Standard Furniture Co. His biggest challenge when he started working at the family owned business after college was “overcoming being the boss’s son,” he said.
“I work with people who have been working in our company for longer than I’ve been alive,” said the 35-year-old leader of the 106-year-old Birmingham-based home furnishings company. Gaining those individuals’ respect motivated him, Jacob said.
Then, at age 29, Jacob became the boss after the 2012 death of his father.
Jacob’s management style is to “let the people who know what they’re doing find the best course on executing and completing a project or reaching a goal.”
A company’s success isn’t based on any one person, he said. At Standard Furniture, the team decides on projects and goals.
“We have a great team, but everyone is extremely important,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter how good your sales team is if your delivery team doesn’t perform at a high level; and it doesn’t matter how great of a delivery team you have if they don’t have anything to deliver. We also have 10 people in our corporate office who act as a support staff for our stores and do everything from accounting to operations and merchandising.”
Altogether, Standard Furniture’s 14 stores in Alabama and Tennessee employ 100.
“We work together to come up with a plan, then work to execute the plan,” Jacob said.
Organizing people around common goals appeals to Jacob.
“One thing I learned from my father was to be association minded, both in the Alabama Retail Association and in the home furnishings business,” he said. Stuart Shevin, Jacob’s father, served three years as an Alabama Retail board member. Jacob has served on the board since 2013 and has been a member of the association’s executive committee for four years.
On Jan. 1, Jacob began a two-year term as chairman of the Alabama Retail Association. He also serves on the board of directors for the Home Furnishings Association, the nation’s largest association of home furnishing retailers.
“Every industry is different, but if you get together to discuss issues, those discussions become meaningful to the group as a whole,” Jacob said.
“My goal as ARA chairman is to get more small businesses involved. I also want to make sure that small business has a voice, a seat at the table in legislative affairs,” he said. “If it wasn’t for associations, like the Alabama Retail Association, those voices would go unheard.”
Meeting together also has benefits for individual retailers. “If you attend a meeting or conference and walk away with one new idea, it could be the element that takes your business to the next level,” he said. “You learn the right thing at the right meeting, and it can pay for itself 10 times.
“I love going to ARA meetings and events,” he added.
Two people he has especially enjoyed interacting with are Bromberg and Co. President Ricky Bromberg and George Wilder, owner of The Locker Room in Montgomery and Auburn, both past ARA board chairmen. “They are such great merchants and retailers,” Jacob said. “I talk to those guys a lot about their businesses and visit their stores whenever I can.”
Another goal for his ARA chairmanship is “to get to know more people on the board and learn about their businesses and what makes them successful.”
“I’m fascinated by business,” said Jacob, a 2005 commerce and business administration graduate of the University of Alabama. “To have a product at the right price at the right margin requirement to pay the bills so you can do it all over again is what interests me.”
He became the fourth generation to work at Standard Furniture when he was in college. He started at the Leeds store. “I would take payments, call customers and learn about the back end.” Once he had his degree in hand, he went to work in the corporate office in marketing and advertising.
Although Jacob worked for and was influenced by his father, he didn’t know his grandfather or great-grandfather.
“It is my understanding that my great-grandfather started out of a wagon selling door to door,” said Jacob.
Felix Shevinsky founded Standard Furniture Co. as Standard Furnishing Co. in 1912.
“We’ve always been in the retail, consumer products business,” said Felix’s great-grandson. While the company has always sold furnishings, it hasn’t done so exclusively.
Sometime after its founding, the business became known as Standard Clothing Co. and sold installment clothing and home furnishings. In 1935, the company bought the furniture store next door and became Standard Clothing and Furniture Co. The clothing operation was discontinued in 1957, and the business has been known as Standard Furniture Co. ever since.
Over the years, the company has bought and merged with other companies, opened, closed and relocated stores, but generally has operated in the north half of Alabama with one store just over the border in Tennessee.
Its Alabama stores today can be found in Bessemer, Birmingham, Center Point, Cullman, Fayette, Gardendale, Graysville, Hartselle, Leeds, Moulton, Pelham, Pell City and Talladega. The Tennessee store is in Fayetteville.
“We have seven stores in the Birmingham advertising market,” said Jacob, “and then seven stores in small towns that are kind of their own market.”
“We are always looking for new opportunities,” he said. “We look at advertising markets and we try to get as much retail sales out of a market as we can. If we can put a store in a new city within a market we are already advertising in without taking away from another store, we try to jump on that.”
Overall, Standard Furniture strives “to be an affordable place to shop for home furnishings and to treat people right,” its president said.
Standard Furniture Co. has been an Alabama Retail Association member since 1989. Visit online at standardfurniture.net
Number of Employees: 100
Mentor: My father, Stuart Shevin
Smart Move: Surrounding myself with smart people
Learning Moment: 2007-2010 (The Great Recession)
Wisdom Shared: “Nothing happens until the sale is made.”
– Stuart Shevin
This article is the cover story of the February 2018 Alabama Retailer.