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ELM CITY — Tommy Sullivan and Robert Vick are fixin’ to trade their office chairs in for rocking chairs as soon as they transition from businessmen to retirees.
“It is a great business, but we’re ready to retire,” said Sullivan, co-owner of Elm City Furniture. “Our age and the timing feels right, but we’ve certainly enjoyed the 10 years we’ve been here. It has been a blessing.”
The two first met when Sullivan started dating — and eventually marrying — Vick’s friend and through the years, they’ve become even closer with Vick’s son marrying one of Sullivan’s two daughters.
“We’re tied up all the ways you can be with church, family, friends and the business,” the 64-year-old Vick said with a laugh.
Prior to buying Cobb Furniture from a third-generation owner in 2008, Sullivan and Vick had worked together at another furniture store. Sullivan’s entire career had been in the furniture business, but Vick had been a farmer for 32 years before switching to the 9-to-5 life.
“We’ve expanded our service area to eight or 10 counties, but we’ve also tried to carry on the same customer service tradition the Cobb family had here for over 100 years,” said Sullivan, who is 61.
The business started in 1902 with a combination furniture store and funeral home, relocating to the current location at 101 W. Main St. in 1943. The funeral home eventually was shuttered and the inventory expanded to include appliances, but Sullivan and Vick focused on quality home furnishings, mattresses and accessories.
“Our official opening day was July 1, 2008, and right after that was when the recession hit really hard, but our business was really consistent through that whole time,” Sullivan said. “We were blessed because this was a location and a business that was already established.”
“Mr. Cobb had a longstanding following here and we had customers we’d grown relationships with, too, so folks knew they could trust to buy from us,” Vick said.
Vick added that the shop’s four employees have helped to ensure a quality experience from the time customers enter the store through purchase and delivery.
“It is unreal the number of people who call us to tell us how great of a job our guys do of delivering,” Vick said. “From selling to when they are in your house delivering a piece you bought, we try to be polite, courteous and respectful. But if there is an issue, we deal with it right away.”
The decision to retire and sell the shop wasn’t an easy one.
“For me — and I think Tommy would agree —there has never been a day when I dreaded to go to work,” Vick said. “We really enjoy what we do.”
A final day for the duo — and the shop unless someone buys the business — is likely to happen sometime in September. Sullivan said he looks forward to spending more time with family, including his wife of 42 years.
“I love to play in the dirt. I’m sure I’ll be doing more gardening and yardwork,” said Vick, who has been married to Martha for 36 years. “I’m also looking forward to getting more involved with the church. I’ve got a feeling there won’t be any down time.”
Elm City Furniture is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays as well as 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit elmcityfurniture.net/ or call 252-236-4455.
“We’ve been very blessed here and we’re grateful for all the customers who’ve shopped with us,” said Vick. “A lot of customers say, ‘Oh no, you can’t close,’ but we’re ready to retire. We’d love for someone to come in who wanted to take over the store. There is a very good business here and, for the town’s sake, it would be good for it to stay open.”