In 1968 Harold Hall was 21 years old. After working several other jobs, including one with his father’s own shoe repair business, he found himself working at Devereaux Furniture in Eaton Rapids. In 68 the owners were ready to sell the business, and Harold stepped up to take over, renaming the business to Old Mill Furniture and starting a legacy of small town dedication, service, and quality.
When Harold bought the business, it was simply an opportunity to move up in the world. He had no grand ambitions of owning a furniture store, but the opportunity presented itself and he took it. He’d grown up in Eaton Rapids and graduated from the high school. Owning a local business and planting roots was the logical next step for the young Hall.
Many things have changed throughout the 50-year history of Old Mill. The location, the staff, the furniture styles, and suppliers have all changed or come and gone, but Harold takes pride that the business has remained consistent in what it offers. Old Mill hasn’t outgrown its britches. It’s stayed local, held to one location, and continues to serve the same customers, as well as second and third generation customers.
“A recliner is still a recliner,” said Harold. “But you don’t have to go more than 50 feet to find the owner. If you have a problem or need something, there’s no mystery.”
Half a century later, Harold and his wife, Emily, have handed most of the business responsibilities over to their youngest son, Greg. But Harold is still involved in the business, and plans to be as long as his health permits, which could be quite a while considering he’s still an active bicyclist well into his mid-70s. Greg has no plans to expand or significantly change the business. Like his father, Greg plans to remain a consistent, stable business in his home community.
Harold and Greg both reflected with some delight, and perhaps some cynicism, at working in a family business. Emily eventually came on board in the 70s, and Greg’s siblings all worked at the business at one time or another.
“It’s something you have to have patience for,” laughed Harold about working with family.
The father and son pair undoubtedly count themselves fortunate to have the family legacy in Eaton Rapids. To own a small town, family business, the rewards have to outweigh the costs. The dedication to a hometown carried Old Mill Furniture through economic downtown, changes in the industry, and many other unexpected challenges as well. Challenges remain for any business like theirs. Online resources like Amazon continue to present themselves, but Greg is especially optimistic about Old Mill’s ability weather an uncertain future.
“We try to serve customers like they should be served,” said Greg.
Old Mill Furniture is located on the corner of Hamlin and Hall Streets in Eaton Rapids. To learn more about Old Mill and the products and services they offer, readers can visit oldmillfurniturestore.com, or call (517) 663-4802.