Fixated on Furniture

There are few more immersed in the business than the Schneiders of Sofas Etc.

We’re spending more time in our homes than ever before—and that means more time sitting on, using, and looking at our furniture. And for many of us, all of this sheltering in place has been a reminder that our couches and chairs need some serious sprucing up. With that in mind, Mark Schneider of Sofas Etc. thinks the home-furnishings industry might just get a boost when the pandemic is over.

“Overall, business had been fairly good up until the pandemic,” he says. “We’ve continued to serve customers and designers by appointment and phone orders during the outbreak. And it could very well return to the previous volume, God willing.”

Schneider, 68, knows a few things about furniture, home-décor fads, and economic cycles. Growing up, his family was in the furniture business, and his own company, Sofas Etc., with stores in Baltimore and Columbia, has been around for 27 years.

Schneider says his company sells mostly medium-to high-end brands, and its core business is living rooms and dining rooms, as well as bedroom furniture. His key to success, though, has been not just walk-ins, but working with interior designers, especially in upholstery and leather.

“Working with independent interior designers is a large part of our business,” he says, “but we have our own staff designers, as well.”

Running the day-to-day operations now is Mark’s son, Jeremy, 37, pictured, though the elder Schneider is still very involved, doing the buying, working with designers and salespeople, and going to furniture markets twice a year in furniture-centric North Carolina.

“Some of our most popular brands are Sherrill, Precedent, Rowe, Vanguard, and Elran,” says Jeremy, “but we carry lots of other brands, including Stressless, which does a lot of nice leather chairs and ottomans.”

One of the firm’s more modest offerings is office furniture, but the Schneiders see that as another area with potential for growth.

“Even before the pandemic, we were seeing an uptick in business for home offices as more people wanted to work remotely,” says Jeremy. “And now that so many more people have learned to work remotely, that could be a strong sales area in the months and years to come.”