5 Star Stories: Hollywood Furniture and Hardware

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – Mom and Pop stores are more and more difficult to find these days, but there’s at least one such store in Memphis that’s been in business for almost 100 years. In our quest to highlight the people, places, and things that make us proud to call the Mid-South home, this 5 Star Story focuses on Hollywood Furniture and Hardware, as the family who owns it prepares to close the doors on a family legacy.

The intersection of Chelsea and Hollywood in North Memphis has been home to one family’s entrepreneurial dream and business for three generations and at least 99 years. According to Bart Garey, the current co-owner and grandson of the founder, the store first opened in 1924.

“And Hollywood was obviously, at that time, more of a rural community–wasn’t really part of Memphis,” Garey said.

Bart’s grandparents, Roy and Irene Sanford, were the first in the family to own the business, which basically started as a hardware store. But, due to the remoteness of the area back then, the community needed more than just a hardware store.

“They needed to be able to sell appliances: stoves, refrigerators and then, you know, mattresses and so it just kind of grew for the need,” Bart explained.

Then, the second generation of the family came along and years later, the Sanfords’ daughter Marilyn and her husband Berl Garey joined the business. And according to Bart’s sister and co-owner Leslie, business was good.

“Back in the day there were so many factories out here and there was so much going on,” she said.

And with both their parents working in the store, Leslie and her siblings practically grew up in the business.

“You know, I grew up following both my grandfathers around at the farm, and loved to know how to fix stuff and loved to be helping in the middle of all that, and so I love the hardware part,” she enthused.

Bart recalled other memories growing up in the hardware and furniture store.

“Had a tricycle out here, riding up and down the aisles–my kids are all grown now, obviously. They did the same thing,” he described.

And just like the growing family, the business grew as well. But rather than move out of the changing neighborhood or opening more stores, that family opted to stay where they are.

“You know the old Hollywood Theater was next door. When it was torn down, we purchased that property. There used to be a drug store on the corner ; we purchased that property. There used to be cleaners around the corner; we purchased that property. So we’ve been able to expand right here,” Bart said.

Bart began working at the store about 40 years ago, bringing with him an idea that would give the business it’s unique identity.

“I saw that there was a need for this furniture, Victorian-style furniture. Even though we still carried everything else, we really got to where we were heavy into that, and we became a destination point for that and still are to this day,” he explained.

Leslie started working at the store in 1986, thinking she’d stay only a year until she got her business degree.

“You know, God always paves the way and God puts you where you need to be, and through the years it’s been such a blessing, you know. So many wonderful people, yeah, it’s really been wonderful,” she exclaimed.

Wonderful people like Jacqueline Loverson, a customer at Hollywood Furniture for roughly 30 years, starting when she bought her first living room set and beds for her children.

“I mean, they just like family. I mean, they will help you, you know,” she explained.

And handy man Johnathan Washington who said he’s been coming to the store a couple of times week for about 10 years now.

“Them some pretty good people. I hate they (are) closing on me,” he bemoaned.

Deciding whether or not to close the business has been an agonizing decision for the Gareys, who said prayed and discussed their openings for a couple of years.

“How do we close what grandma and granddaddy started? Mom and dad have worked so hard and how are we gonna be the ones that close it?” cried Leslie.

But they soon decided it was time to close the business.

“I’m healthy. My sister is healthy, Leslie, and I’m at the age now where I wanna enjoy my grandkids and, you know, not be working all the time,” Bart said, adding, “And the great thing about it is we’re doing it on our time, not because financially there’s problems, business is still good here.”

Leslies just hopes the word gets out to all the people she’s come to think of as friends and family throughout the years.

“It’s just, I hope everybody will come by and see us. I’ve been making a list for a long time of all the people that I need to call that have shopped here and just may not have been here lately, and I would hate for somebody to drive up in March or April and go, ‘Aw, the Gareys are gone and they didn’t tell us,’” she expressed.

Hollywood Furniture and Hardware, family run and community minded, makes us proud that it’s called this place home for nearly a century. Incidentally, Berl Garey, who is now almost 91 years old, still does the books for the business.

The Gareys also want to say thank you to all of Memphis for keeping their family in business all these years. And if you want to check out the store, you still have time — Hollywood Furniture and Hardware will remain open until the end of February.

For more information about Hollywood Furniture and Hardware click here. You can also check them out on Facebook.

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