GALLIPOLIS — Tope’s Furniture Gallery, MTS Coins and Acquisitions Fine Jewelry have made a name for themselves in the last half century since the furniture gallery’s original opening.
According to business proprietor Tom Tope, Tope’s Furniture Gallery was started in 1952 in the building where Lorobi’s Pizza currently is on Second Avenue. The business would move to its location at 151 Second Ave. in 1960. The second location, according to Tom, was a Studebaker-Packard garage at one point. The two front rooms of the furniture business were vehicle showrooms.
Tope’s Furniture Gallery was also chosen as one of Ohio Valley Publishing’s Reader’s Choice for Best Furniture retailer. The business was originally founded by Earl and Rosethel Tope.
“Because there were no malls (at the time), ” Tope said, “retail flourished.”
Tope said at one point in time there had been 11 furniture stores in Gallipolis. Tom’s brother, Dave Tope, serves as a proprietor of the furniture store.
The Tope’s coin business started in 1978 with Dr. Jim Magnussen and Mark Sarrett. Magnussen has remained with the business to this day. Magnussen serves as a co-proprietor of the business with Tom. Acquisitions Jewelry Store started in 1990.
Earl Tope would eventually retire in 1996 from the retail business before passing away in 2011. Rosethel passed away in 2008.
“The advent of malls created a retail hub that consumers were drawn to,” said Tom about the changes of retail business over the years. “It was a drawing point for people and started the undermining of ‘Main Street America.’ One of the best investments you could ever have (in Gallipolis) was on Second Avenue because you could always rent it. It was just money in the bank until the ’90s with the advent of big box stores like Walmart and Target and then the internet.”
Tom noted it was harder for small-town business to compete with internet businesses in regard to things like sales tax.
“Overwhelm the consumer with service,” said Tom about how retail stores have adapted in the face of adversity. “You have got to know your customer by what they like and overwhelm them with service. Service them to death. It’s the only way you’re going to hold onto a customer. People like personal attention. They like to save money, but they like personal attention. If you can give them a good product at a fair price and give them a quality product, (you’ll keep a customer).”
Tom said his father, Earl, always said, “People like to buy from people.” Tom said he wasn’t sure of the latest generations and the trend of internet consumerism, but that was how he and his colleagues have adapted to keeping up with the latest age of merchandising.
“Furniture is a unique product,” Tom said. “It’s a product that people like to sit in, know that they’re comfortable and see it up close. It’s very difficult to buy furniture on the internet.”
Tom had also delved into the jewelry business after speaking with a friend who said roughly 60 percent of his jewelry merchandise was sold from November through December. Tom said he felt that was the worst time of year to sell furniture, so getting in the jewelry business was a good move to do business throughout the year.
Tom ultimately stressed that despite the internet, it was about making sure the customer had a good product, was treated to good customer service and that a business hired the right people to be successful in the retail world. He said one of his employees had been with the businesses for around 40 years and others had been with them for decades as well.
He said his employees are often the ambassadors of his business, whether a delivery driver or someone greeting a customer at the register.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.