Mueller Furniture has been a staple in Belleville for the last 90 years.
Lynwood Mueller, president of Mueller Furniture, said business at the third-generation family-owned store has been so good they decided to open a second location in Lake St. Louis, Mo.
Mueller has been working at the store more than four decades. He started part time during his college years at Indiana University. He majored in marketing and finance. He started out as a chemistry major, but that changed pretty quickly, he said. He currently works about 65 hours a week.
The Lake St. Louis store is located in an outlot of the Meadows Shopping Center. It’s a freestanding building, which had been vacant for a number of years. Mueller said it has “great visibilty” from Interstate 64.
“It’s a nice place for a furniture store,” he said.
Lynwood’s son, Mark, helps operate the Lake St. Louis location while still serving in his role as general manager of Mueller Furniture. He oversees the merchandising, marketing and most of the furniture buying, Lynnwood said from his office at the Belleville location.
Lynwood Mueller said the Lake St. Louis location is smaller than the flagship store — just 10,000 square feet compared to 26,000 square feet.
“We’ve had to scale back what we show out there,” he explained.
The new store is concentrating more on American-made products and Amish furniture. The beauty of the Amish furniture, according to Mueller, is how customizable it is. A customer can choose the type of wood they want, the type of stain they want and the hardware they want, among other things.
“They will customize the furniture to whatever meets your needs,” Mueller said. “It allows for customers to get exactly what they want.”
We have been almost shocked by the amount of traffic we are getting through the Lake St. Louis location. We’re just overwhelmed with the number customers we are getting through there.
Lynnwood Mueller, president of Mueller Furniture
In addition to opening a new location, Mueller Furniture also recently launched a new website — www.amishfurnituredirectusa.com — which features Amish furniture that can be shipped anywhere in the country.
The News-Democrat recently sat down with Mueller, who is a three-time cancer survivor, to talk about the history of the business and its new location. Here’s what the 62-year-old had to say:
Q: What’s the history of your family’s business here in Belleville?
A: ‘We have been here since 1927. My grandfather John Mueller started the business, and then was followed in it by his son, Roland, who was my uncle, and my dad, Les, who came into the business after he got done playing professional baseball with Detroit. My uncle unfortunately died at a relatively young age. He was 50. So that left just my dad and my mom at that point. It’s basically been described as a mom-and-pop store, a family business, which is common in a lot of furniture business.”
Q: How long have you been working at Mueller Furniture?
A: “Part time while I was in college. Technically, I probably started about 1971. Full-time since 1974. It’s been a while.”
Q: Why was now the right time to open a second location?
A: “We’ve been looking for a while. Business has been extremely good for a number of years, and we have been doing more and more business in Missouri — St. Louis city, county and a lot out in St. Charles County. We felt there was a void of stores like us over there. We didn’t want to be too close with another store and just steal business from ourselves. Lake St. Louis is 60 miles away from here.”
Q: Why was Lake St. Louis selected as the location?
A: “St. Charles County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the United States for years. There’s been a real boom out there. We felt there was a lack of stores out there that sell what we do, which is upper-medium priced goods. We specialize in a lot of American-made solid wood furniture. We work with over 50 different Amish workshops from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.”
Q: What’s it like working with the Amish?
A: “It’s quite a challenge working with them, because they don’t have phones or faxes. You leave messages and voicemails. You send faxes to a service in town, and it’s delivered to them. Communication is sometimes difficult.”
Q: What has the response been to the new location?
A: “We have been almost shocked by the amount of traffic we are getting through the Lake St. Louis location. We’re just overwhelmed with the number customers we are getting through there. We have been quite pleased with the response out there.”
Q: How does Mueller Furniture compete with online retailers?
A: “Furniture online is very difficult ... There’s two reasons furniture is tough to sell online. One is the cost of shipping is very high, and the second thing is the amount of damage in shipping furniture is extremely high, especially with more the import furniture, which is not solid wood.” (Mueller Furniture is able to ship Amish furniture using specialized shippers, he said.)
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: “I’m the third generation here, and my son Mark is the fourth ... The expansion and growth of the business could not have been done by myself. It’s skilled management. We’re a good combination. He (Mark) has such expertise and is so good at the marketing, merchandise and sales end. While I did that for 35 years or more, I’m probably better at the operations.”
At a glance
A grand opening at Mueller Furniture’s new location will be held in May.
- Address: 9 Fountain Grass Dr, Lake St Louis, MO
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m .to 8 p.m. on Thursday and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday
- Phone: 636-234-3361
- Website: www.muellerfurniture.com
Meet Lynnwood Mueller
- Job: President of Mueller Furniture
- City: Belleville
- Family: Wife Kris of 42 years, son Mark and two twin daughters, and five grandchildren
- Age: 64
- Outlook: “We are survivors. We’ve survived the Great Depression, numerous recessions, and we’ve stayed on to thrive.”