Conlin’s Furniture is a regional, privately-owned furniture retail chain, operating stores throughout Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming with annual sales of approximately $50,000,000.
The company offers a broad selection of mid-priced furniture manufactured by the strongest furniture brands in the country such as La-Z-Boy, Broyhill, Sealy, Beautyrest, Flexsteel, and Palliser, among others.
Conlin’s generally ranks among the top 110 largest furniture companies in the United States, as tabulated by the trade magazine Furniture Today, and was recently the subject of a profile in that magazine.
The history of Conlin’s begins in 1937 when Ed Conlin Sr. (deceased) founded Conlin’s Furniture in Williston, North Dakota in a building 25 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Ed’s entrepreneurial inspiration for this event was a falling out with his business partner in a hardware and furniture store. He came out of that breakup with $1,500 in cash and just enough credit to order a small amount of merchandise. A few month’s later he was joined by his oldest son Clem (also deceased).
During those early years the Great Depression made business conditions difficult for Ed and Clem. At the worst point Ed had exhausted his cash and credit and his entire inventory consisted of merely one dining room set and one bedroom set. A woman from Froid, Montana came into the store and bought both sets for cash, saving the business.
Time passed and the store outgrew several rented locations, so in 1949 Ed decided to build a new 21,000 square foot building. The town’s “wiser” businessmen believed this would be far too large a building for a furniture dealer, and the endeavor was christened “Ed’s Folly”. But the business prospered in the new facility and it served as the base from which several other stores would open during the next 10 years. Today, Conlin’s Furniture still operates in Williston out of that same building.
Ed’s second oldest son -- Ed Conlin, Jr. – joined the business in 1950 after graduating from West Point Military Academy and completing his military service. He spent his first years in the business on the roads of eastern Montana selling carpet and furniture from the back of his car. During that time the business expanded to Scoby and Sidney Montana, although these stores were closed a few years later. Clem and Ed’s younger brothers, Frank and John, also joined the business and together they expanded Conlin’s Furniture into additional cities. Ed moved to Bismarck in 1955, and shortly thereafter Frank moved to Fargo ND, and John moved to Dickinson ND, with each brother operating a store in his city. Ed Conlin Sr. and Clem remained in Williston.
Each of the brothers’ stores operated independently although ownership of the stores was shared among them all. (The Dickinson store later closed when John left the furniture business.) Although some merchandise buying activities were conducted jointly, the basic independent functioning of each store remained in place from the 1950’s through the 1960’s. The success of the company during those years came in large part from the strong customer service and fairness the Conlin brothers brought to the area’s furniture industry, their eye for product style and quality, and their willingness to sell at lower prices to bring in more customers.
At this point the focus of the company’s history moves to Ed Conlin Jr. and his store in Bismarck. Ed Jr. had already expanded by opening an additional store in Jamestown ND (and Sioux Falls SD but this closed later due to poor site selection) and a second “budget” store in Bismarck. In 1975 Ed brought in Paul Gunville from Price Waterhouse in Minneapolis to work as the company’s Controller.
After Paul had been with the company for short time he and Ed arrived at some key insights. One was the need for the Conlin brothers to buy each other out in order to make their ownership interests correspond to the store(s) each was operating (This was accomplished amicably in the late 1970’s). Another was the need to place the buying and shipping, and distribution functions for Ed’s stores under centralized management. And the third was that there were many furniture store operators in ND, SD, and MT who were nearing retirement age but had no family members to pass their businesses on to, creating an opportunity for Conlin’s Furniture to expand by buying out their interests, or moving into their cities.
Our mission is to provide an outstanding customer experience through a family of knowledgeable and caring associates, a selection of high quality home furnishings at great values, and endless service to our clients.
The following timeline traces the expansion of stores under Ed Conlin’s controlling ownership, starting with his arrival in Bismarck, ND.
Conlin’s Furniture is dedicated to serving our communities and supporting worthwhile causes. While we do give financially, we are known for our generous spirit and support.
Conlin’s Furniture is able to channel much-needed funding directly to charitable organizations, civic programs, community projects, and arts/cultural and educational institutions in the cities we serve. Areas of ongoing special focus for
our giving include women’s issues, such as breast cancer, and juvenile diabetes research. Organizations we support include Women’s Way North Dakota, Juvenile Research Foundation, Toys for Tots, Shrine
Circus, Head Start, Ronald McDonald House, and local high schools and food pantries.
Our team takes great pride in playing a vital role in the community. By shopping at Conlin’s Furniture, we hope that every customer will feel
that they are a part of giving back to the community as well.
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