Era ending soon for family furniture shop

CNJ Staff photo: Kevin Wilson Ronnie and Venita Brooks have run Shipley Furniture since 1980, when they purchased it from Venita’s parents, Fred and Ruby Shipley. The couple said the store will close within the next few weeks.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

One day a customer, well past retirement age, entered Shipley Furniture and ordered nearly $20,000 worth of items. Store owner Ronnie Brooks asked if it was OK with her husband. She responded her husband had died a rich man, but never indulged in furniture — a mistake she intended to correct.

Most customers Ronnie and wife, Venita Brooks, see at Shipley Furniture aren’t like that. Instead, they’re people who bought couches 15 years ago, but still come in every few days to visit.

“We’ll miss the people,” Ronnie said. “We never met a stranger, and we (usually) have a few stop by.”

The furniture store, which has been part of Clovis since 1965, is closing down within the next few weeks. The pair said they are in their late 60s and running out of energy.

“We’re wanting to retire while we still have our health,” Ronnie Brooks said.

They gave up the idea of keeping the business in the family, as they did in 1980 when Ronnie bought the business from Venita’s parents, Fred and Ruby Shipley.

Their children live out of state and are already successful in their various careers, Ronnie said, and nobody else wanted the store.

“We hate to leave, and we thought we could sell (the business), but nobody wanted it. It’s kind of a landmark.”

They’ve sold the building, which was originally built as a car dealership — lines along the south wall show where display windows used to be, Venita Brooks said.

Ronnie Brooks didn’t disclose what type of business would be taking the building.

Over the years, the pair said furniture moved from an “I need” market to an “I want” market, and people with more purchasing power replaced furniture more often.

While that shift in the market helped, Ronnie said, there have been challenges.

Nowadays, people are more likely to spend money on electronics. About 20 years ago, Brooks figured people would probably spend 70 percent of their living room budget on furniture and the rest on entertainment equipment, but the ratio has flipped with DVD players, video game systems and high-definition television.

Also, competition from overseas has taken market share. Ronnie Brooks still prefers American-made products, but said the cost to ship furniture is now about what the price for the same item was a few decades ago.

Throughout it all, one thing never changed — the customer base kept Shipley alive.

“We’ve enjoyed it,” Ronnie Brooks said. “We hope we’ve performed a service in Clovis, New Mexico, for the furniture industry.”