By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 19 — While Elias Schewel started a furniture legacy by peddling chairs door to door in Lynchburg in the late 1890s, it would be one of his three sons, Abe, that discovered Luray 44 years later and brought the family franchise to Page County.
“He was visiting the Harrisonburg store, when he came by this picturesque town and thought it would be a good place to open a furniture store,” said Matt Schewel, who represents a fifth generation in the furniture family. “So in 1941, we opened a store in Luray. This was maybe the fifth or sixth store the family opened outside of Lynchburg, so it was one of our first…and 81 years later, we’re still here.”
When Schewels first arrived in Luray, it displayed its wares in the space now occupied by Page One. A few years later, the downtown furniture store would migrate across the West Main Street bridge and set up shop in what is now Inspiring Dreams Dance Studio. Decades later, the third and final move to the Food Lion Shopping Center took place in 2000.
Community leaders gathered at that location on Tuesday morning to cut a ribbon marking the company’s 125th anniversary. In 1897, Elias Schewel, a Lithuanian immigrant, opened a store called the Chicago Furniture Bargain House in Lynchburg, which was incorporated in 1917 as Schewel Furniture Company. The company rebranded as Schewels Home in 2019.
“125 years…81 years in Luray…that is amazing,” Vice Mayor Jerry Schiro said to the crowd gathered at the store on April 19. “A lot of that is because of how the family treats its employees and its customers…that’s what makes a hometown business great.”
Schewels Home is one of the oldest furniture retailers in the United States under continuous family operation. Currently, Schewels Home is owned and operated by Marc and Jack Schewel, the fourth generation of the family, and Matt Schewel, the fifth generation.
“We have served generations of families,” Matt said on Tuesday.
Larry Taylor, manager of the Luray store for the past five years, said Schewels is a “wonderful company to work for” that truly considers “the employee’s and the customer’s well being.” Tammy Good-Ware, the Luray store’s credit manager for the past 32 years, echoed that sentiment.
“I love my job as much today as I did my first year,” Tammy said, tearing up as she thought of retirement.
Schewels Home now has 50 stores in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. The furniture retail chain specializes in offering its customers financing for purchases in its stores. It’s that ability to work with customers that makes Schewels different from other stores, according to 20-year employee Jeff Cubbage.
“If you just be nice to people and give them respect, it goes a long way,” said Cubbage, who has sold nearly $15 million in furniture during his tenure at the Luray location.
The Anniversary Friends and Family Sale, an annual tradition dating back to 1920, kicks off on April 19 and lasts through early May. In addition to amazing discounts, Schewels Home is giving customers a chance to register for weekly in-store drawings of free merchandise, with a grand prize of $10,000 in free furniture to be drawn on May 11.
“We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 125th year than to offer these amazing deals and prizes to our customers,” said CEO Marc Schewel.
Schewels Home is marking another milestone in April, the formal opening of its new corporate headquarters at the Galleria building at 915 Main Street in Lynchburg. A ribbon cutting and open house will take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday, April 21. Last year, the Schewel family bought the Galleria building and renovated the second and third floor to house its corporate offices.
The second floor is also home to a new exhibit on the history of the company titled “Furniture in the Family.” The exhibit, curated by Matt Schewel, consists of wall panels telling the history of the company from the 1890s to present, accompanied by historic photos, documents and artifacts.
“A lot of things have changed over 125 years,” Matt said, “but what hasn’t is our mission to provide affordable home furnishings and exceptional customer service to generations of families.”
Schewels Home is located at 1460 US Highway 211 West, Suite C, Luray. Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The store is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. Check out their website HERE.
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