A familiar name in Central Missouri is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary. When he hung out his shingle in March 1946, Hubert Bescheinen was thinking about crystals, not diamonds. A graduate of an …
A familiar name in Central Missouri is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary. When he hung out his shingle in March 1946, Hubert Bescheinen was thinking about crystals, not diamonds. A graduate of an electronics school, he was trained and working in radio repair. In army aviation, he was assigned to air-traffic-control tower electronics maintenance. That was in the World War II Pacific Theater. He spent the years emerging from the war planning to open his own business. He took off his uniform a year after the war ended. Then he opened an electronics repair and sales business in Loose Creek. Now, it's known as Bescheinen Family Furniture.
That was good business in these parts in those days. Technology was advancing and the young man in his prime was more than up to keeping up. Postwar America, even in rural Missouri, was a good market for more and better radios. Not just anybody could take the back off of one on the fritz and make it work like new again. Plus, there was always something new and bigger on the way. In 1948, Bescheinen bought and tuned in to the first television set in Osage County. Reception came and went for a while, but in 1951, the county began to demand it. That year, the name changed to add Radio, TV, and Appliance Sales and Service.
He married Pauline, then Kremer, in 1947, and they set about raising a family. Pauline put in some hours at the business until the children began arriving. Then, maybe just to keep them from spending too much time at the store, she became a full-time homemaker. Vivian, Marvin, and Steve became the shopkeeper's kids. They did what the children of the self-employed do.
Business owners, especially founders, dream of passing on the enterprise to their children. However, Hubert Bescheinen wanted more for his daughter and sons. He wanted them to know that they knew more than just his business. His counsel was to get an education and learn another trade away from the family's livelihood. "See what it's like on the other side," he told them.
If, after that, they wanted to explore it more, they would always be welcome. Marvin and Steve took him up on that. Marvin went full-time with his father in 1972, and Steve joined the firm in 1980.
"The word 'Family' in our name has special meaning to us," wrote the Bescheinens in 1996, the company's Golden Anniversary. "We are truly a family business."
By that time, things had changed under the Bescheinen marquis. A full line of furniture made its way onto the floor in 1958. A new building, next door and just west of the original was erected at the present location. In 1959, it made room for a good selection of stock. Other expansions have taken place since. A second floor was stacked on in 1961. Another addition came in 1976. Hubert phased out his repair operations at that time.
Since Steve began drawing full-time pay, there was interest in expanding the business. The brothers purchased land in Osage Beach with an eye toward building a store there. However, in 1990, Joe Thomas Furniture of Versailles came up for sale. With Thomas’s retirement, the Bescheinens felt it was a better opportunity. The Osage Beach property was sold. Marvin and his wife Elaine assumed the Versailles store in 1991, naming it the second Bescheinen's Family Furniture. Steve and his wife Suzanne remained in Loose Creek. Appliances and electronics were part of the Thomas operation. Marvin kept them when he took over. Appliances made a comeback to the Loose Creek location in the '90s as well. The family has always been willing to adapt to community preference.
By that time, Hubert Bescheinen was satisfied his boys could handle themselves. In increments, he turned more and more corporate responsibilities over to them; but to say he ever retired might be a stretch. He and Pauline will both be centenarians within a year, but Hubert still works for the store. He spent time on the sales floor and in the office every day until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Discretion bid him then to work from home, which he still does. He makes tags and does other things to stay engaged in the project he started. Until the coronavirus kept him in, Pauline would tell Steve, "Thanks for letting Pop come in."
As it turns out, she has things to do, too, which she finds go better with some solitude.
The sturdy genes which produce such longevity, good health, and productivity continue. Marvin and Steve are old enough to be retired, and Steve chuckles, "I'm here more than I want to be."
However, fishing and some zeal for motorsports get him outdoors. He's out of the store enough to prove he's a real Bescheinen. He has rebuilt old pickup trucks, which he would then "drive the wheels off," as he puts it.
Marvin, for his part, is an avid runner. He takes part in numerous 5K and 10K races and wins more than his share of medals, especially in his age group. Keeping up with their parents might be tough, but the brothers seem to be succeeding to this point.
There is a third-generation now carrying on the Bescheinen tradition. Steve's daughter, Stephanie Wright, is now the general manager at Loose Creek. Son Matthias and son-in-law Jake Dudenhoeffer both work in delivery sales. Marvin's son Aaron is now managing the Versailles store. The brothers will hire outside the family but they have never had such employees in more than single-digit numbers. The family has been able to run the business themselves with minimal help.
Furniture sales have provided well for the clan. The business has grown steadily, and as Steve says, "We are always doing better than we did last year."
A building blitz on the north side of the Lake of the Ozarks contributed to a blazing hot streak at the Versailles store a few years back but the Loose Creek store kept growing, too. At present, both facilities produce similar revenues and profits. Don't think the brothers aren't competitive, though.
One of their favorite recurring promotions, unique to the Bescheinen brand, is the annual "Battle of the Brothers."
In July 2019, the Osage and Morgan County newspapers ran ads trumpeting the "24th Annual Battle of the Brothers."
They keep score, too. Total units sold and gross profits always run close and neither brother admits to ever having much of a losing streak in the contest. The two store buildings are within a few feet of being exactly the same. The Versailles building is a more sprawling single-story structure.
Another source of satisfaction for the family is family ties among their customers. Great-grandchildren of Hubert Bescheinen's early customers are now buying from the store. Neither brother is aware of a fifth-generation customer yet, but it's bound to happen soon. The core of their customer base is repeat customers. The family insists on selling quality products at reasonable prices. Both are critical elements of any definition of a good economy. They also provide the best service they know how. They've built, and continue to maintain, a solid reputation in the area.
It hasn't always been easy and prosperous, though. Hubert remembers supply being difficult in the early years after World War II. The furniture supply chain now has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
"When things started getting good, from the time an order was taken to the day of delivery was about four weeks," said Steve Bescheinen. "A little later, it became three weeks, and that was the industry gold standard. Now, it's 14 to 22 weeks."
Asked if he has ever seen anything like this, Hubert Bescheinen responded, "No, not since the war."
Of course, then, there was a national security component. Many materials were diverted from appliance factories. Now, it's people locked down who would be delivering those materials to factories. If allowed, some would be using them to build furniture at those factories.
February's hard freeze in Texas also set things back. A major producer of seating and bedding foam was forced to shut down assembly lines, which exacerbated the COVID-19 production chain troubles. They will not be able to return to production for several months yet.
Still, the Bescheinen Family Furniture floor stock remains decent. It's a testament to the brothers' business savvy, hustle, and determination.