Gary Froneberger and Terry Lowman have worked in the furniture industry a combined 50-plus years.
They were working together at Heilig-Myers Furniture when it went bankrupt.
â€œWhen they shut down, we decided to go out on our own,â€ said Froneberger.
And thus, Hometown Furniture was born on Oct. 11, 2001.
The storeâ€™s first location was in Boger City, in one of the old Cronland Hardware buildings where Fatz CafÐ¹ now sits.
â€œFatz took the building down and thatâ€™s when we moved to Lincolnton,â€ said Froneberger.
The pair discovered the Main Street Marketplace building on East Main Street.
â€œWhen we looked at the building, we already had the option to have booths there,â€ said Froneberger.
Currently, nine different smaller businesses rent space inside Main Street Marketplace and Froneberger estimates they have the space to hold at least nine more venders that line each side of the main showroom as well as upstairs.
Booth rent is $200 per month.
â€œPeople who have a dream of starting their own business can start one now,â€ he said.
By far, Hometown Furniture is the biggest tenant in Main Street Marketplace, covering most of the 20,000 square feet that used to house Belkâ€™s department store.
The Main Street Marketplace boasts everything from rugs to floral arrangements to items one might not expect.
â€œWe even have a vendor with Christian items,â€ said Froneberger.
Main Street Marketplace started around 1993 or 1994 according to Ken Kindley, Lincolnton/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce president.
â€œWhen we did downtown revitalization through the Chamber, one of my employees found a buyer for that building, who turned it into a nice place, where she rented booths and kept a business herself in the back.â€
Kindley said that the original owner kept the building until her death, leaving the business to her husband.
â€œIt started as a business incubator, where some of the businesses have gone on to their new locations,â€ said Kindley.
While Froneberger and Lowman are celebrating their fourth anniversary through the end of October, they are not planning anything special.
â€œWe are having the customer appreciation sale,â€ said Lowman.
According to Department of Transportation figures quoted by Lowman, 12,000 cars pass by the downtown Lincolnton business each day.
â€œNobody else in town is set up to do what we do,â€ said Terry.
And that creates an unusual niche.
â€œThis is the only building in the city thatâ€™s zoned to have several businesses under one roof.â€
Hometown Furniture mainly sells the Berkline and Benchcraft brands of furniture.
The recent economic downturn in the furniture industry does not concern Lowman.
â€œIt does make it harder to get the goods we want to sell,â€ he said.
While they do not offer free delivery due to the increased gasoline prices, they are trying to do things not done in other furniture stores.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to create a retail environment where customers donâ€™t feel pressured or pushed into buying anything,â€ said Lowman.
He says that the staff will speak to the customers but will not pressure people to buy things.
â€œI see potential here in downtown Lincolnton,â€ said Lowman. â€œWe got a head start on other downtown areas.â€
Lowman and Froneberger face a continuous challenge that other downtown Lincolnton merchants face.
â€œItâ€™s hard to compete with the strip mall or the big box stores,â€ said Lowman.
Want to go?
Hometown Furniture hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The store is closed on Sunday.
To inquire about booth space or for more information, call Hometown Furniture at (704) 748-9091.
by Jon Mayhew