GTPulse: Creating a Place That Feels Like Home With Golden-Fowler
Despite what I thought, Golden-Fowler Home Furnishings wasn’t named after some kind of exotic bird. The local furniture company began in 1960 when Nat Golden and T. Austin Fowler opened up shop in Traverse City. They were pioneers of the locally owned home furniture industry in Northern Michigan.
“I’m not Golden and I’m not Fowler, but my name’s on the door. If you walk in here and have all kinds of questions, well, I’m here and you can ask away.”
Mike Mahn is the current owner of Golden-Fowler, and he’s worked from the bottom up in all aspects of the home furniture business. A Traverse City native, Mike first started out working in a furniture store warehouse.
“Like a lot of people’s careers, this came to me through poverty. I had a job in a warehouse with furniture delivery. I’ve always been a good woodworker and enjoyed repairing the furniture, I still do.”
The company he had been working for at the time moved him and his young family down to Ann Arbor for a few years.
“Jobs were not easy to find at the time. So, I went down to Ann Arbor and worked 10 years down there. I eventually ended up becoming a salesperson, and a designer. I learned a lot from our showroom designer on how to set up displays and make them beautiful. I learned a lot about how to guide people through the home furnishing process.”
He moved back home in 1992 to work at Golden-Fowler. He remembered the store as a kid, but his first day of work was his first time going in. He moved quickly from salesman to manager. His bosses were only the second owners Golden-Fowler had. Mike became the third after they retired in 2008, a daunting task amid a recession.
“The store was at a turning point. I knew nothing about how to run a business, but I know a lot about people. I learned a long time ago to trust people to do their job. So I keep people close to me that are very talented, and that’s how I run my business. We’ve been raising the bar every year since 2008.”
Going into the showroom feels like walking into champagne bubbles. Soft cream-colored fabric covers thick, cushy couches. Glossy coffee tables are the centerpiece of different living room arrangements. Each one inspires a daydream for what a future home could look like. A blue and white arrangement that would fit in a little bungalow. A grand, L-shaped cognac leather couch with elegant end tables could be lovely in an older home. There are also styled bedrooms too. Within each arrangement, there are different styles, colors, textures, and sizes that could make any area the favorite part of the home. Mike and I picked a living room to sit down in. I took my coat off.
“This is a great couch,” I said leaning back.
“It’s a good one,” Mike said with a smile.
At home, all of my furniture is secondhand except for the couch. I got it off a popular big box website for $500 and already find myself filling it with throw pillows to mitigate the saggy shape it’s started to take on. It’s not even two years old yet. In another move or so, I’ll be forced to exile it to a basement or garage and buy another one. My poor back can only take so much.
I imagined what it would be like to own a couch like the one I was sitting on. Pretty, comfy, no throw pillows necessary.
“I wouldn’t have to replace this anytime soon I bet,” I said.
“I would hope not,” Mike said. “We definitely focus on functionality, longevity, and ownership experience. If you bought this sofa, I want you happy with it for a long time. If you are…seven or eight years down the line you’re telling your friends how beautiful and comfortable your sofa still is. This forward equity is what we rely on,” Mike said.
These aren’t big box store pieces that you replace every few years. They’re not focused on pushing product out en masse, but instead, making sure their customers are happy for a long time to come. With 98% of their furniture being American-made, that’s not hard to do.
The sales staff at Golden-Fowler work hard to make sure that guests are comfortable and enjoying the entire process of buying furniture. Whether it’s replacing a single piece, or decorating an entire home, they guide shoppers through different pieces of furniture based on what will be functional first. Mike said that what’s important is using furniture to create a feeling of home when you walk into a room.
Golden-Fowler strives to make their customers feel cared for as well as the community. With a large focus on women and children in the area, Golden-Fowler supports Zonta, Arts For All, Women’s Resource Center, Goodwill Food Rescue, and many more nonprofits. And even though they weren’t able to host their various annual events and fundraisers in person this year, they still did so virtually when they could.
“One of our core values is supporting our community’s women. We work to create healthier, happier, safer women in the community.”
Trends in home furniture may change, but Golden-Fowler’s commitment to quality and community will remain steadfast.
When I went home I beheld my own apartment and hodgepodge of thrift furniture. Each piece felt like a relic of being stuck somewhere between youth and adulthood. I smiled knowing that when I buy comfortable and gorgeous furniture that lasts from Golden-Fowler, the stuff I have now sure will look good in the basement.
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