Sheely’s stands the test of time

NORTH LIMA — Dale Sheely Sr. started humbly in 1952 wiring hot water tanks out of a small South Avenue storefront named Sheely’s Electric.

“Being an electrician and wiring a lot of hot water tanks, he eventually started asking people if they would like the old tank hauled away. … He refurbished them and sold them on the side, which led him to then selling new hot water tanks, which then led him into selling appliances and then eventually furniture,” said Sheely’s granddaughter, Jessica Smith, a principle owner of what Dale grew into one of the most well-known furniture stores in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Now led by Smith and two other principle owners, Jeff Curry and Lance Romeo, Sheely’s Furniture Appliances Mattresses is taking on the future by taking cues from the past.

And those are avoid gimmicks, keep prices low and treat customers with respect.

But don’t expect the three new owners to rest on their laurels, but instead stay innovative and on the hunt for fresh, new ideas to continue loyally serving their customers.

“The really good thing is even before knowing that we were ever going to be afforded the opportunity or put in this position, we all had the same vision for the store. We all kind of have the same thought process behind why we want to be successful, how to be successful and what’s most important to us,” said Smith, also a buyer for the store.

The trio on Thursday were named Small Business Professionals of the Year at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s annual Salute to Business breakfast.

Smith in a video shown during the awards said her grandfather founded Sheely’s, and she grew up dusting furniture and washing trucks. She said her grandfather turned his love of numbers into a successful business model.

Curry, who said he started in 2002 as a manager at the company, said what drew him in was the Sheely family.

The store at 11450 South Ave., North Lima, opened in 1980, but first at the site was a 100,000-square-foot warehouse built in the late 1970s. The showroom is about 80,000-square-feet and underwent additions in 1990 and in 2018 when the clearance center opened in the rear of the store.

“That one tiny storefront, he kept expanding, expanding, expanding, so different portions were all built in different eras and eventually he outgrew that entire plaza space and built here,” Smith said.

It employs about 150 people in service and sales.

Smith, Curry and Romeo took different paths to come to the same point — ownership.

Smith grew up in the business — washing trucks, putting handles on pieces of furniture, dusting — but moved to Las Vegas after college and started to work for famed chef Wolfgang Puck as a private dining coordinator.

She returned to North Lima in 2010 and took a job in the banking industry, but came back to the store when her mother, the store’s longtime decorator, retired and assumed the role of decorator.

Smith became the accessories buyer about three years ago and last June, bought her mom’s stake in the store.

Curry and Romeo became principle owners in August 2018 but through different transactions.

Curry was brought on in 2012 as general manager, a role he still holds.

“Then when the opportunity to buy into the wonderful family arose, Lance and I were welcomed with open arms,” Curry said.

Romeo began at the store in 1990 after high school as a general employee and also worked at a short-hole golf course owned by Dale Sr. Then in 2000, a buyer left and Romeo assumed some of those duties in case goods and wood categories.

He knew he wanted to own a piece of the store someday, and so did the family.

“I was in Dale Jr.’s ear for about 10 years. I wanted a piece, didn’t know where, the direction my career was going to go and I wanted to stay here, stick around,” said Romeo, who still holds a buyer’s role.

Dale Sr. turned 90 in July.

“His philosophy was always just have everyday low prices, don’t do the gimmicks. … He was sell anything, he would sell probably the shirt off his back. My grandmother used to tell us stories how she would have her dining room set, be cooking in the kitchen for the six kids, he’s over at the store and the next thing you know, here comes the truck or the customers with him and they are packing up the China. All her place settings are out at dinner and he’s giving them the table and chairs and they have nowhere to sit … it (selling) was just in his blood,” Smith said.

“He took care of his customers, and I think that is a story attributing to that. If they wanted something right then and there, OK, we’ll do it right then and there,” Smith said. “It was always, the customer is always right, do whatever you can to make them happy, make sure they want to return and come back to the store.”

Said Romeo, “He would buy so much furniture he would ask some of the employees if they could stick it in their garages. If he got a good deal, he would buy bulk and actually stick it in the employees garages before he built the big warehouse.”

As for future growth, “we’re always looking to bring in new lines, new bedrooms, innovation,” Curry said. “We added the warehouse outlet center. Lance created an Amish gallery. We remodeled our bedding gallery.”

Ohio-sourced Amish furniture was brought into the store in 2009 and sold well, but began to stagnate. Romeo rebranded the Amish gallery and moved it to the center of the store and sales went through the roof.

“So doing changes like that, just keeping the floor fresh, fresh ideas, Jessica is always coming up with great promotional plans, that kind of thing is where we are getting our growth from right now,” Romeo said.