More than 175 years after its inception, Ripley’s vail furniture remains a local favorite
A few notable things happened in 1844. James K. Polk won the United States presidential election. The first telegram was sent from Washington, D.C., to Boston. And a 19-year-old cabinet maker named Isaiah Vail established a business in Ripley. It began as Vail Funeral Home—cabinet makers often doubled as casket makers back then—and over the decades transformed into a thriving furniture store. Today, it still stands as a community treasure—a trustworthy place where you’ll always see a familiar face.
Walking in the door, customers can find everything from grandfather clocks and paintings to mattresses, dining sets, beds, and couches. An employee is always on hand to assist, and if clients do walk out with a purchase, they’ll get free delivery to a local address. It’s no wonder a large portion of store’s clientele is repeat customers, some of whom return year after year, generation after generation, to replace items they previously purchased that have run their course.
“They’ll buy a couch or recliner, and then 15, 20 years later, they’ll come back and get another one,” Manager Dave Lowry says with a laugh. “A lot of us have been here long enough that we see them come back. Most of the employees we have here have been here, gosh, 15, 20 years plus. It’s an enjoyable place, and I think customers experience that, too.”
Lowry began working at Vail Furniture straight out of high school, running deliveries and helping with anything that needed to be done. He climbed the ladder over the years, and now—after nearly three decades—he manages the place. Kathryn Goodwin, whose husband is a direct descendant of Isaiah Vail, still owns it today, and her daughters plan to keep it in the family name as long as it’s viable. Given the support the store has, it’ll likely be viable for a long time to come.
“The community has been very supportive of keeping us here,” Lowry says. “We have a wonderful community where a lot of people believe in shopping local and in trying to take care of local businesses. I think you lose some of that in bigger areas than Ripley.”
The store employees don’t work on commission, which garners even more trust and goodwill among customers—they know that, when they hit Vail, they’re getting a fair price and that staff are helping because they’re genuinely helpful, not because they’re getting a cut of the purchase.
The customer service and familiar faces aren’t the only reason customers keep going back. The prices are also quite reasonable—something Lowry says is often a misconception about small, locally owned furniture stores. “We’ve fought for years against this image that we’re going to be a high-priced place. People think the big box stores are going to be so much cheaper, but really, they’re not,” Lowry says. “It’s usually not hard at all to beat their prices.”
So before you head to a nationwide chain for your next big buy, check out how far you
are from Ripley. Maybe you’ll be Vail Furniture’s next customer.
103 North Church Street, Ripley,
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