Owners hope to sell furniture store

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Owners Tommy Sullivan, left, and Robert Vick work on invoicing Thursday at Elm City Furniture in Elm City.


Staff Writer

Monday, September 3, 2018

ELM CITY —- An independently-owned, more than 100-year-old furniture store in a small town in Wilson County with a strong following in Twin Counties will be closing its doors for good soon, unless someone purchases the business.

Tommy Sullivan, 61, and Robert Vick, 64, owners of Elm City Furniture, are in the process of retiring and plan to close down the longtime store sometime this month if no one steps up to buy it. The store is currently holding a retirement and Labor Day sale on furniture and other items in the store.

Vick said he is holding out hope that someone will make them a deal and keep the store open. The store that was formerly called Cobb Furniture opened in 1902 as a combined furniture store and funeral home, which the owners said was common in small towns during that time. 

Sullivan and Vick took over the business on July, 1, 2008, after purchasing it from third-generation owner Tommy Cobb.

“We’ve had some interest and a couple calls, but right now there is nothing happening,” Vick said. “We’re hoping someone will buy it and continue to operate it and keep it open for the community. It’s the main reason why we announced that we were retiring and hoping if people knew about it that it might spark someone’s interest to purchase the furniture store. When Cobb walked out, we walked in and the doors were never closed. We hope that will continue to happen.”

Sullivan and Vick have a combined 62 years in the furniture business. Sullivan has been involved for 42 years, while Vick has 20 years of experience. Vick spent 32 years as a local farmer before switching over. They both worked together in the furniture industry prior before going into business together.

Their relationship crosses over personally as Vick’s son is married to one of Sullivan’s daughter. Vick said Sullivan’s wife is someone he has known as a longtime friend even before Sullivan and her dated and eventually married. It was through Sullivan and his wife’s relationship that Vick and Sullivan met and throughout the years started to develop a friendship and over time became business partners.

Sullivan said going into business together 10 years ago was just too good an opportunity not to pass up. Ironically, the owners took over the furniture store right before the economic downturn impacted the economy. 

“This gave us a chance to go on our own, and this store was very was well-known in the area,” Sullivan said. “We took over a couple months before the recession hit, but we were still successful because of the store being well-established. It had a strong following of customers. People stayed coming here and continued to buy — so even during the recession, we were able to stay in business and be competitive in the market.”

Even though it’s located right outside the Twin Counties, Elm City Furniture has received a legion of customers from Nash and Edgecombe counties. Sullivan and Vick said their focus has been on selling quality mattresses, home furnishing and accessories.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support over the years from the people in the Rocky Mount area, including people coming from Nashville, Red Oak, Castalia, Bailey, Spring Hope, Tarboro, Pinetops and Macclesfield to name a few around that area,” Vick said. “The thing we’re going to miss the most about the furniture store is probably the relationships with customers and people you see on a regular basis.”