By Burton Speakman
Hard work, a little luck and a lot of determination has helped Sheely’s survive 60 years in business.
The company started as a electrical contracting business owned by Dale Sheely Sr. It grew into one of the area’s largest furniture stores.
“It started at a good time right after World War II when there was a building boom in the Youngstown area, said Dale Sheely Jr., who currently runs the business with his wife, Sherry. “He wired a lot of the homes [built during that time] in Poland and Struthers.”
From the electrical business, Sheely’s began selling appliances and then moved on to dinette sets, providing the start into furniture, Dale Sheely said. After 10 years with Dale Sheely Sr. operating both businesses, the electrical-business materials were sold to Joe Dickey Electric Inc.
The business grew from 1952 to 1980 expanding as cash flow allowed with pieces added onto the building.
“It looked like a mouse maze,” Sherry Sheely said.
The business moved to its current location on South Avenue in 1980, said Dale Sheely. The company was able to start and expand for years without taking any loans, Dale Sheely said. The only debt Sheely’s ever had was short term to finish the current building in 1981.
“A business couldn’t start today the way Sheely’s started 60 years ago,” said Sherry Sheely.
Modern businesses want to be on the busiest street where people might just drive by and stop, she said. They also focus on promoting discounts.
“We’re out on the middle of nowhere. We’re a destination. I tell our people all the time when someone comes through our doors they’ve already made a decision to buy,” Sherry Sheely said. “Nobody just drives by us.”
Family ownership of the business has allowed Sheely’s to make decisions quickly without going through layers of management, Dale Sheely said.
“When the economy is down, we can purchase more midrange products or even lower,” he said. “When the economy rebounds, we can move to more upper- range items.”
The company doesn’t have exclusive deals with certain brands, which allows it to make decisions such as a few years ago when the buyers began looking for more American-made products.
Dale Sheely said he began working for his father’s business when he was 8, placing the knobs on chests and dressers. His sisters also would take care of odd jobs such as replacing light bulbs.
“I got my first profit-sharing check at the age of 9,” he said.
“His father had a rule that anyone who was going to be a Sheely had to work at Sheely’s,” Sherry Sheely said.
Family ownership may come to an end with the current generation, she said. There are 12 grandchildren, and only two of them live in the area, and none of them are involved with the business.
“Ideally you would like the next generation to already be working in the store, because we would like to start slowing down,” Dale Sheely said.
As part of its celebration of 60 years in business, Sheely’s is hosting a sale at its store from Thursday through Sunday. During this time, the store is hosting several giveaways. This is one of the store’s few sales, Sherry Sheely said.
“We’re expecting 2,000 to 3,000 people will come through the door Saturday,” Dale Sheely said.