Randy was abruptly put in the lead role of Coconis Furniture in 1981 when his dad became seriously ill. While succession wasn’t a new thing to the Coconis family, this sudden illness caught them off guard and threw Randy, then a salesperson, into a role he wasn’t prepared for. “I really didn’t know much about running a business,” he said. “I relied on my reps and other friends in the business to learn and make business decisions.”
Even though the transition was abrupt, Randy took the lead and continued to build the company’s successful foundation. Randy’s grandfather, Nick Coconis, opened Zanesville Furniture Company in 1927 in downtown Zanesville. An immigrant from Greece, Nick arrived in America unable to speak any English. “The first three days he was in America, he only ate apple pie and drank coffee, because those were the only English words he knew,” Randy added.
The second generation of owners, Randy’s father Paul and uncle Don, took over the business in 1953, and changed the name to Hallmark Furniture. A new 5,000 square foot store was opened in South Zanesville, which is where it still currently resides. When Randy and his brother Paul Jr. (a silent partner) took the reins in 1981, the business began to see substantial growth. In 1986, the store name was changed again, this time to Coconis Furniture. “We ran a marketing campaign saying that the store’s name changed to what it should have been the whole time,” Randy added.
That same year, Coconis Furniture added on a warehouse, which quickly became more showroom space. The business continued to expand, and today it features a 70,000 square foot showroom that spans one city block. “There is no more space for us to grow,” Randy said. “We now have a 30,000 square foot warehouse across the street, which is state-of-the-art, 40-feet high and racked.”
Pictured above from left: Bo Coconis, Chad Coconis & Randy Coconis
Today the fourth generation has now entered the business, with Randy’s sons Chad and Bo working by his side to learn the operation. They strive to make a relaxed in-store environment that is exciting for customers to visit.
When you walk into Coconis Furniture, you instantly feel comfortable with a laid back feeling felt throughout. Children can enjoy a kid’s play area, or cruise around with mom and dad using their own kiddie carts. Ole’ Paul’s cafe is set up to serve refreshments and provides a place to recharge during the shopping experience. The showroom is set up in departments to make it easy for someone to find exactly what they are looking for. “We departmentalize everything, so we show all of our living rooms together, dining rooms together, bedrooms, etc.,” Randy said. “We have a few lifestyle pods, but I have always believed that if a customer wants to buy a dining room set and they come into our store, they don’t want to have to walk by 30 living rooms and 14 bedrooms as they shop for dining sets.”
Since the store was added onto several times over the years, it naturally lends itself to departmentalizing products into categories since separate rooms have been created by the new additions. Within each category, vignettes have been set up so the customer can imagine how the products will look in their home. Focusing on the mid-priced point consumer, Coconis Furniture offers everything from Ashley to Flexsteel. “Zanesville and Southeast Ohio is the edge of Appalachia, so our customer is looking for that mid-price range product. The average per capita is drastically different here than it is in Columbus. We have to make sure we offer a product that our customer can afford. Of course, we also have customers that are from Columbus, so we have to have products for them as well. It is difficult trying to be all things to all people. That is one of the reasons why we have 70,000 square feet, because you need a lot of square footage to please everyone,” Randy added.
Each product has been tagged and priced to help empower the customer as they shop. Randy implemented a two-tiered pricing strategy years ago, which features two prices on the tag, a finance price and a cash price. “Many times stores will tell you if you are paying with cash, they will give you a 10 percent discount,” Randy said. “We like to show our customer the savings. So for example, a tag on a sofa will have a finance price of $658 and a cash price of $598. The cash or credit card-paying customer, which is nearly two-thirds of our customers, sees what they are saving right away and they like it. The financing customer doesn’t care about the price; they care about their monthly payments. The program has been very successful, and I know of at least 50 stores across the country that have implemented this pricing strategy after learning about it through my performance group or buying group.”
Randy credits his success mainly to his employees and the level of service they provide. Many employees have been with the company for more than 20 years and work hard to create the welcoming environment that customers have come to expect, and love. When looking for new employees, Randy would much rather hire a good personality than someone who has industry experience. His reasoning is, he can teach furniture, but not personality. “Being in a small community, we are a pretty good place to work. People that come here don’t leave unless we make them. Without our great employees, I wouldn’t be receiving this award because they are a part of our success,” he said.
Great personalities help the team provide exemplary service to their customers, something that Randy’s father taught him, “My father always taught me to take care of your customers and keep them happy. We can’t keep every customer happy, but we can keep the majority of them happy, and we will bend over backwards to meet our customer’s needs.”
Along with taking care of his customer, Randy and Coconis Furniture generously give back to the local community. Randy has been involved in numerous organizations, including serving as a volunteer fireman and sitting on the local City Council. He currently serves on the board of the American Red Cross and is a 25-year member of the Sertoma Club, a local service club in his community. In 2011, Randy was awarded the prestigious “Dick Johnson” Community Service Award, which is the highest achievement of anyone in the community. “It is sort of similar to the Retailer of the Year award but it is focused on people giving back to the community. It was really an honor. Next to this, it was probably the biggest honor I have received in my life,”
With everything Randy is involved in, he hopes to start scaling back in the next few years. Retirement, traveling and boating, are on his mind. He is molding Chad and Bo to take over the business and continue it on its path of growth.
“I am pulling back more and more,” he said. “I hope in three to five years I can retire and Chad and Bo will be operating the business, growing it and taking it to the next level. And I hope to be in Florida—I am an avid boater. I also love to golf and travel and hope to spend even more time with my family
As for being named one of this year’s NHFA Retailers of the year, he said, “It is quite an honor to receive the top award in the home furnishings industry. For us to be barely over $10 million in annual sales and to be listed next to the past large store winners, it is amazing. When I look at the list of past winners, it is filled with retailers and friends that I have looked up to my entire life, and now to be considered on the same level is pretty awesome.”
Randy Coconis, Coconis Furniture
South Zanesville, OH
Along with Randy’s numerous community involvements, he is highly involved in the home furnishings industry. He is currently serving as a board member of the National Home Furnishings Association and has been newly elected to the new North American Home Furnishings Association board. He also sits on the board of his Furniture First buying group and is an active member of his performance group.