Key player: Nicolle Merkel
Business: R-Ville Furniture & Bedding
Key role: Home furnishings specialist
Key quote: “First and foremost, our clients come first.”
LIMA — Nicolle Merkel has been around the furniture business her whole life.
When she was a mere 6 months old, she appeared in her first television commercial. At age 9, she waited on her first customer.
Now she helps run R-Ville Furniture & Bedding which her grandfather, Everett McGahan, opened in 1950 on North West Street. Merkel continues where her grandfather left off, helping customers find the perfect furniture for their homes.
“First and foremost, our clients come first,” she said.
Helping clients is not just delivering a sales pitch, it’s listening to them and hearing their needs in order to find the perfect piece, she said.
“Furniture is not just something you walk in and pick it off the shelf and you’re done. You need to sit on it and you need to make sure it’s comfortable, and it serves the purpose you’re trying to achieve,” she said.
Merkel’s eye for interior design, teamed with a willingness to be flexible, allows her to understand what a customer is after, even if the customer has only a rough idea of what they’re after. Merkel helps them find the furniture that fulfills their plans.
“We do our best to educate our clients so they know exactly what they’re looking at,” she said.
Merkel may be the primary boss today, but she spent years as one of the company’s hidden assets, helping to make sure the business not only survived but thrived.
Merkel’s job is not just limited to selling furniture on the 40,000-square-foot showroom floor, it also entails unloading the truck, cleaning, changing light bulbs, and doing the books, among other things.
“Anyone who has a family business knows you wear many hats. You pitch in with anything that needs to be done,” she said.
Working alongside Merkel is her mother, Barb Binz, who has been involved in the business her whole life, as well. Having her mother there is what Merkel likes best about her job, she said.
Merkel also leans on her mother for advice.
“She said, ‘It’s going to be yours one day, so you better learn to run it.’ She’s my help and my support,” Merkel said.
While many furniture companies have struggled through the economic downturn, and some have closed, R-Ville has weathered the storm mostly thanks to a strong client base, she said.
Merkel also has been flexible and eager to adapt to anything. When a bank canceled financing of all furniture during the recession, R-Ville allowed its customers to buy furniture on layaway, pay it off without interest and have it in a short period of time, usually less than six months, she said.
Today, R-Ville is thriving.
“We feel blessed,” Merkel said.
Many of R-Ville’s clients are repeat customers and many are second-generation shoppers, she said. Offering quality, affordable furniture, and helping customers find exactly what they want keeps them coming back, something her grandfather always believed in.
“That’s what built the business. People want a good product and they would come back to my grandfather,” she said.
It’s a lesson Merkel never forgot and it’s a lesson that has made her successful.