Brakenridge Furniture marks years in Ferriday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 5, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – Warm memories and close family ties drew Charles Brakenridge back to his hometown. This month he’s especially glad he made the decision to return to Ferriday, as he is on hand to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the family furniture store.

Brakenridge Furniture, in a larger building than the small brick structure where Gene Brakenridge first opened for business, remains in the same 1961 location at 506 Louisiana Ave.

&uot;I saw a need for a furniture store here even though we had very strong stores in Pasternack’s and United Furniture,&uot; Gene Brakenridge said.

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&uot;It takes a lot of hard work and patience and takes a while to make a business work. We’ve grown very slowly over the years.&uot;

The conservative approach to business paid off for Brakenridge, who said because of his wife’s position teaching school, they were able for a few years to leave money in the store to help it grow.&uot;

Once the business began to grow, however, his wife, Diane, also joined the business, working every day alongside her husband and often finding her children playing about the store.

Son Charles recalls those days clearly and relishes the times now when he can bring his own two young children into the store to play.

Charles and his wife, Georgeanne, surprised some of their friends in Baton Rouge, where Charles worked for two years at Premier Bank, by opting to move back to much smaller Ferriday in the early 1990s.

&uot;I left Ferriday with no intention of coming back,&uot; Charles said. &uot;But your priorities change. We had enough of the limelight, the parties.&uot;

What’s more, coming back to join the family business allowed his wife to stay home with the children, Chase and Lansing, now 5 and 4.

Family photographs line the offices of both father and son. &uot;We’re a close-knit family,&uot; said Gene, adding that his daughter, Anna Brakenridge, a Ferriday attorney, also takes part in the business and, like her brother, grew up in it.

&uot;She’s worked on and off in the store through the years,&uot; he said.

Another family member working in the business is Gene’s brother-in-law Theo Rabb. &uot;We’ve had four retirement parties for him,&uot; Charles said. &uot;He’s 81 and he doesn’t want to retire. He still opens up every morning and gets things going.&uot;

Father and son are key to the business, and their talents are complementary. &uot;He’s more experienced in dealing with customers,&uot; Charles said of his father. &uot;He’s good at smoothing things over. And if someone has after-hours need, he’ll help them.&uot;

Charles, on the other hand, gets kudos from his father for bringing new ideas into the business. &uot;He brought in lots of new ideas. We’ve given him authority and responsibility to do new things,&uot; Gene said of his son.

With 20 employees, the furniture store owners work diligently to make a good living for all. &uot;It takes a lot of furniture sales,&uot; said Gene.

Charles has supervised the introduction of new and more upscale lines of furniture and has introduced a special-order department that has been successful for the store.

&uot;We try to market at the lowest prices we can, to make enough to pay our employees and overhead and make a profit,&uot; Charles said.

With 40 years behind him, Gene is in a position to retire but said he has no intention of doing so. &uot;I enjoy it. I’m a people person.&uot;

That decision suits the son and partner just fine. &uot;He’s still the safety net, the one to turn to. And Daddy’s not one to lose customer contact,&uot; Charles said. &uot;He takes every call, still sells to people. And if someone wants him, he’s there.&uot;