A multi-generational tradition
By Abigail Thorpe
Photo by Kiersten Patterson Photography
Mike Gunter, Dale Jeffres and Dwight Sheffler purchased Sandpoint Furniture in 1984; almost four decades later, the second generation is now at the helm of the storied family business that now comprises Sandpoint Furniture, Selkirk Glass & Cabinets and Carpet One. For most of us here in Sandpoint, we’ve done business with all three men and their children, and today the multi-family, multi-generational company remains committed to the same trustworthiness, service and sense of community it started with.
Gunter was born and raised on a farm in Sagle—one his grandfather started and he and his brother still keep going to this day. He credits his wife of almost 50 years, Karen, with where he’s come—she worked at the store for 25 years while raising a family and making a home. Today, their son Clint is the manager of Sandpoint Furniture, and their daughter Kari Granier is the principal for Sandpoint Middle School; her husband Ross manages Selkirk Glass & Cabinets.
Nowadays, you’ll often find Mike with his five grandchildren or out working with his horses, who from mountain riding to moving cattle, have always been a big part of his life.
Q. What makes our town such a special, unique place to live?
Mike: I think our town and surrounding areas are blessed with a lot more than just natural beauty. It goes a lot deeper than that; we’re blessed with a lot of people who have either been raised here or moved here who want to make a difference in a lot of different ways. This is a very active community as far as people who want to help and volunteer for anything from youth sports to 4-H, to the Festival or Bonner Fair. People get sick or hurt, and the community wants to step in and help. I think that’s a thing a lot of people outside of this community are looking for, and we have it here.
Q. Tell me about the history of Sandpoint Furniture. What sets the company apart as a beloved local Sandpoint business?
Mike: Sandpoint Furniture was established in 1945 by John Hagadone. My business partners, Dale Jeffres and Dwight Sheffler, who were also my childhood friends and classmates, purchased Sandpoint Furniture [with me] in 1984. I had worked for Sandpoint Furniture for the prior owners since 1976, giving me the opportunity to learn the furniture portion of the business from the ground up. Our vision for the business was to be a valuable and trusted asset for our greater community providing furniture and flooring that fit the needs and wants of our local community. We have always tried to build our reputation on trust and good old-fashioned hometown service.
Q. As a multi-generational company, what has been most meaningful and rewarding about passing along the business?
Mike: It was an exciting time as we began to bring our second generation on board, providing new energy, insight, and bringing our business into the digital age. It has been very gratifying watching the second generation grow and become valuable, not only to the business but as cogs in the greater community, as they have become involved in leadership roles with many different organizations right here in our hometown.
The multi-generational aspect of our “homegrown” business provides a deep-rooted loyalty to our community and the people who live here. I believe that “family” is what has always rooted me in this community, even beyond the natural beauty. It has been so gratifying to watch the business grow and thrive over the years as we took care of our customers and now watching the second generation at the helm of the business and growing it even in these unusual and difficult times.
Q. What has been a piece of advice or experience that you’ve carried with you, and that has impacted your life for the better?
Mike: Most people in business talk about the value of perseverance and doing everything in a trustworthy or honest way. Trust has always been really important for me in the business, because you can buy a product anywhere, but building a relationship of trust with a business is really special.
I think one of the great experiences is to work on finding—and we’ve found—just great people who work for our business who share these same principles. They genuinely like people, they’ve worked hard at providing great service. No business is perfect, but it’s what I think what’s set us apart.
Q. What vision do you have for the future of Sandpoint Furniture, Carpet One, and Selkirk Glass & Cabinets?
Clint: I don’t think the foundation of our family businesses changes that much. For my partners and I, the opportunity to make a life in our hometown and raise our kids in the greater Sandpoint area is an amazing gift. I would hope that our deep-rooted love of this community and a passion for providing cutting-edge goods and services for our area homes will sustain us for many years to come.
I will say that our incredible staff (both past and present) is largely why we have been in business for 75 years. But I am so proud of our staff for this past year … being pushed to the limits both physically and mentally with all of the new folks moving to this area, meanwhile juggling disruption in school schedules and family needs presented enormous challenges to balance life at work and at home. We are very grateful to work with such a passionate team that refuses to stumble!
While we continue to see growth all around us, our goal is to stay true to our identity as a longstanding family business that is thankful for our customers and continues supporting the community that has been so good to us for generations past, present and future.