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Conlin's Furniture

Company Information

Conlin’s Furniture is a regional, privately-owned furniture retail chain, operating stores throughout Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming with annual sales of approximately $50,000,000. The company offers a broad selection of mid-priced furniture manufactured by the strongest furniture brands in the country such as La-Z-Boy, Broyhill, Sealy, Simmons, and Palliser, among others. Conlin’s generally ranks among the top 110 largest furniture companies in the United States, as tabulated by the trade magazine Furniture Today, and was recently the subject of a profile in that magazine.

Financing Service

Conlin's offers convenient in-store financing and payment options through Wells Fargo.

Markets Served

Conlin's operates eighteen stores in MT, ND, SD, WY, and MN.

South Dakota locations include: Aberdeen, Rapid City, Sioux Falls. North Dakota locations include: Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown, Minot, and Williston. Montana locations include: Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Kalispell, Miles City and Missoula. Other locations include Gillette Wyoming and Alexandria Minnesota.

Website

Conlins.com is one of the most extensive and useful home furnishings websites on the Internet. The online product catalog features thousands of products from more than 25 brand name furniture manufacturers. In the extensive special order online catalog search engine you can view tens of thousands of pictures and in depth product information, such as: descriptions, dimensions, features, construction information, and more. The site features tens of thousands of photographs, enabling visitors to see views of items, room settings, finish and fabric samples, line drawings and more.

The site makes it easy to learn about and see your choices - click to view alternate finishes and colors, and easily click to any of the coordinating items from a collection so you can find the matching night stand, armoire, dresser and mirror to go with your bed. Website features include an impressive "Narrow Your Search" feature that enables you to search for any type of product according to features, preferences and needs. You can instantly find that traditional, cherry, end table that is between 40 and 45 inches. The website makes it easy to view information rich side-by-side comparisons of items. A handy wish list allows users to save items they are interested in to show to a spouse or friend at a later time and from any computer. The site provides easy access to many of their important supplier sites, apply for special financing offers online, view current advertising, get maps and directions to all the stores, sign up for exclusive offers by email and much more. You can even use our free room planner to create your dream room. Conlins.com is a truly world class website – stop by today!

Company History

The history of Conlin’s begins in 1937 when Ed Conlin Sr. (deceased) founded Conlin’s Furniture in Williston, North Dakota in a building 25 feet wide and 120 feet deep. Ed’s entrepreneurial inspiration for this event was a falling out with his business partner in a hardware and furniture store. He came out of that breakup with $1,500 in cash and just enough credit to order a small amount of merchandise. A few month’s later he was joined by his oldest son Clem (also deceased).

During those early years the Great Depression made business conditions difficult for Ed and Clem. At the worst point Ed had exhausted his cash and credit and his entire inventory consisted of merely one dining room set and one bedroom set. A woman from Froid, Montana came into the store and bought both sets for cash, saving the business.

Time passed and the store outgrew several rented locations, so in 1949 Ed decided to build a new 21,000 square foot building. The town’s “wiser” businessmen believed this would be far too large a building for a furniture dealer, and the endeavor was christened “Ed’s Folly”. But the business prospered in the new facility and it served as the base from which several other stores would open during the next 10 years. Today, Conlin’s Furniture still operates in Williston out of that same building.

Ed’s second oldest son -- Ed Conlin, Jr. – joined the business in 1950 after graduating from West Point Military Academy and completing his military service. He spent his first years in the business on the roads of eastern Montana selling carpet and furniture from the back of his car. During that time the business expanded to Scoby and Sidney Montana, although these stores were closed a few years later. Clem and Ed’s younger brothers, Frank and John, also joined the business and together they expanded Conlin’s Furniture into additional cities. Ed moved to Bismarck in 1955, and shortly thereafter Frank moved to Fargo ND, and John moved to Dickinson ND, with each brother operating a store in his city. Ed Conlin Sr. and Clem remained in Williston.

Each of the brothers’ stores operated independently although ownership of the stores was shared among them all. (The Dickinson store later closed when John left the furniture business.) Although some merchandise buying activities were conducted jointly, the basic independent functioning of each store remained in place from the 1950’s through the 1960’s. The success of the company during those years came in large part from the strong customer service and fairness the Conlin brothers brought to the area’s furniture industry, their eye for product style and quality, and their willingness to sell at lower prices to bring in more customers.

At this point the focus of the company’s history moves to Ed Conlin Jr. and his store in Bismarck. Ed Jr. had already expanded by opening an additional store in Jamestown ND (and Sioux Falls SD but this closed later due to poor site selection) and a second “budget” store in Bismarck. In 1975 Ed brought in Paul Gunville from Price Waterhouse in Minneapolis to work as the company’s Controller.

After Paul had been with the company for short time he and Ed arrived at some key insights. One was the need for the Conlin brothers to buy each other out in order to make their ownership interests correspond to the store(s) each was operating (This was accomplished amicably in the late 1970’s). Another was the need to place the buying and shipping, and distribution functions for Ed’s stores under centralized management. And the third was that there were many furniture store operators in ND, SD, and MT who were nearing retirement age but had no family members to pass their businesses on to, creating an opportunity for Conlin’s Furniture to expand by buying out their interests, or moving into their cities.

The following timeline traces the expansion of stores under Ed Conlin’s controlling ownership, starting with his arrival in Bismarck, ND.
* 1955 Bismarck, ND
* 1960 Jamestown, ND
* 1975 Miles City, MT
* 1975 Sioux Fall, SD (second time)
* 1979 Billings, MT
* 1980 Missoula, MT
* 1981 Creation of Centralized Distribution Center
* 1983 Expansion of Distribution Center
* 1984 Great Falls, MT
* 1985 Fargo, ND (Ed Jr. buys out his brother Frank's interest in Fargo store)
* 1986 Aberdeen, SD, Bozeman MT, Minot, ND
* 1987 Rapids City, SD
* 1989 Grand Forks, ND
* 1990 Butte, MT
* 1991 Kalispell, MT
* 1993 Williston, ND (Ed Jr. buys out Clem's Conlin's widow - Patricia Conlin)
* 1995 Mitchell, SD (Closed in 1999)
* 1996 Gillette, WY
* 2004 Outlet store in Bismarck, ND (2nd location in that city)

Ed Conlin’s son, Joe joined the company in 1994 to take on a project to convert the company from manual accounting, inventory and sales systems to computerized ones. Since he has revamped the company’s entire operations from the implementation of industry-standard information systems to job reorganizations for merchandising and back-office personnel to unifying corporate organization and ownership.

In 2002 Joe stepped into the role of Chairman and CEO, replacing Paul Gunville, and began a process of updating the company’s management team. Joe began his career at the Minneapolis office of Touche Ross & Co. (now Deloitte Touche) where he worked for 5 years in its audit and tax practices, he later worked for the CBS Television Network in New York City. A native of Bismarck, ND, Mr. Conlin attended the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota, obtaining degrees in Business Administration in 1978 and English Literature in 1980. He became a CPA in the early 1980’s and graduated from Harvard Business School in 1988 with an MBA.

Today Conlin’s Furniture is still owned entirely by Ed Conlin and his immediate family, with Ed and Joe owning the majority of the company.

Conlin's Furniture Store Locations