Seymour furniture store hits century mark of founding


Each creak, squeak and crack of the timeworn floorboards jogs a memory for the customers navigating the ambient showrooms.

For some, the sounds underneath their feet remind them of the first time they entered the store as a child with their grandmother to buy a street couch.

Others recall the singing and dancing that echoed throughout rooms while taking a break from military duties at Freeman Field.

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A few are still just getting acquainted with the old business, but it won’t be the last time they step foot through the doors off South Chestnut Street.

The tests of time have aged the wood, but it’s still serving its purpose like it did years ago.

While trends and styles change over the years, one business has remained constant in Seymour for the past century.

In 2019, Greemann’s Furniture and Mattress Gallery will hit 100 years since its founding.

The business has a long history of serving Jackson County and all of Indiana but doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

A new business

comes to Seymour

Years before the furniture store opened, the Greemann family had a reputation for furniture in southern Indiana.

In the late 1800s, five Greeman brothers — August, Harman, Harvey, Henry and Louis F. — operated a highly successful furniture company in Batesville.

Wanting to expand its operation, in 1900, the Louis F. Greemann Furniture Co. made a trip to Seymour after a recommendation by resident Dr. G.G. Graessle to look at building a factory. Graessle, who was visiting his father in Batesville one day, met with the men after hearing they were thinking about creating another location.

After trekking to Seymour, a committee consisting of H.P. Miller, Jas DeGolyer, Peter Nichter, Graessle and L.F. Miller was appointed to go to Batesville and Spades, where a second factory was located, to inspect the plants and get a proposition.

The men returned and made their report, and the mayor and city council took favorable action.

Louis F. and Harvey Greemann moved to Seymour to manage the plant, while August, Harman and Henry Greemann remained in Batesville.

According to an article by the Seymour Republican, on April 2, 1902, the plant was to be opened in July on 5 acres of the Huffman land with the main building facing west. It was situated just over the corporation line at the east end of Second Street. Cummins Seymour Engine Plant currently sits on that land.

The factory had a brick building that was 330-by-60 feet and two stories high and had a 7-foot stone basement. A total of 500,000 bricks, 33 cars of stone and 300,000 feet of lumber made up the building.

There also was a dry house, which was constructed of iron and glass.

The furniture factory operated until around 1911 before closing, but the Greemann family didn’t pick up and leave when the doors closed.

Opening and closing the furniture store

In 1919, Harvey Greemann and his wife, Mary, opened Reliable Furniture Store at 210-212 W. Second St.

Harvey retired in 1937, leaving the business to his sons, Wilford “Bill” Greemann and Harvey G. Greemann.

The location, a Masonic building, served the store until Greemann purchased the old shirt factory building on 205 S. Chestnut St. in 1940, moving the store to its current location.

The new building offered more than 17,500 square feet of floor space, which was four times larger than the previous location.

Two years after moving to South Chestnut Street, the Greemann brothers were called to serve in World War II.

While the men went overseas, the store also underwent wartime changes.

In the Aug. 18, 1942, edition of The Tribune, it was announced that the store was going to close depending on the speed with which the entire stock could be sold.

The store had been advertised for rent and served another use for a brief period of time.

The north side of the current showroom was occupied by United Service Organizations, providing a cantina, shuffleboard courts and a dance floor for use by the servicemen at Freeman Army Airfield. Timperman Sales and Service also utilized a portion of the building.

“The downstairs, the main floor, actually was a farm implement place. They leased that out,” said Nick Greemann, who is the son of Wilford Greemann. “The USO was on the second floor. I think the downstairs was actually divided into three. I was told the north 20 feet, plus the upstairs, was the USO, and the south 40 feet was someone who worked on farm machinery.”

During a recent renovation, some of the old USO shuffleboard courts were uncovered by visual merchandising buyer and in-home design sales expert Paul Sullivan. He said they put a clear coat over the courts, which were painted red on the floors, to preserve the history.

Wilford became a captain during the war in the Army and was awarded the Bronze Star for “meritorious achievement in connection with military operation against the enemy in the European theater of operations from June 17, 1944, to Dec. 31, 1944,” according to an article published March 10, 1945, in The Tribune.

In a letter to his parents, Wilford said he had the star pinned by the general himself. Greemann was serving with a tank battalion and had been overseas for more than two years at the time.

Harvey G. Greemann, who enlisted just seven months after Wilford, served 19 months overseas in the Asiatic-Pacific theater with the Navy. Old editions of The Tribune show Harvey was stationed in both on Saipan and Okinawa. When he was released, his title was chief storekeeper.

Back in business, looking toward the future

The Greemann family never ended up selling the business, so once the brothers returned home after three years of being away, it didn’t take them long to reopen the store.

Greemann Furniture Store returned to downtown May 14, 1946.

When Timperman moved out in 1948, the Greemanns remodeled the store and expanded its space to some 24,000 square feet between the two floors.

Harvey G. and Wilford managed the store together until 1977 when Wilford bought Harvey’s interest in the company and became sole owner.

Wilford retired in 1980, and Nick took over the management of the store to continue the legacy his grandfather and grandmother started.

“I know my father and grandfather, they wanted to have a good, quality furniture at a good price for people,” Nick said. “They wanted to take care of their customers.”

In 1979, Bob Hougland first started delivering for Greemann’s. This Labor Day will mark his 40th year with the company.

“When I started here, everything was a street couch and straight chair,” Hougland said. “There wasn’t any kind of motion upholstery or chairs with footrests. When I first started, it was mostly little old ladies that came in that wanted couches that were plain. No design or anything, it was either a brown or green couch. If you didn’t have one, they’d be out the door.”

Greemann’s acquired the adjoining building at 211 S. Chestnut St. and renovated it to become Greemann’s Mattress Gallery in 2008.

Changing hands, looking toward the future

Nick, who lives in the Brownstown area, recently retired from the business, and in July 2018, Shawn Busby of Seymour purchased the business, but not the building.

Busby said he met Nick about 20 years ago through the Seymour Noon Lions Club. Nick was one of the charter members of the club.

In 2010, Nick convinced Busby to step away from his job in radio advertising to come work for him at the furniture store. That sale led to the eventual sale.

Nick said he’s confident Busby will help the business continue to grow.

“I’ve known Shawn for quite a few years,” Nick said. “I think he’s of good integrity and is a smart kid. We brought him into the business and saw how he handled things. It made me more and more confident that he would be a good person to do it.

“I think Greemann’s has been an anchor for downtown business outside of the years during the war,” he said. “We’ve unfortunately lost Union Hardware and some other businesses. I don’t know that there’s a legacy. We’ve been fortunate to have customers in Jackson County and the surrounding area. We’ve managed to stick it out as long as we can.”

Busby said he plans on continuing to operate the business under a customer-first mentality.

“You think about all of the big box-type stores that have come around the last 20 years, and it has run a lot of independent retailers out of business, not just furniture, but in general,” Busby said. “Furniture, I think, is a little unique that a lot of people want to see it, touch it and experience the product.

“I think it’s really about the service,” he continued. “I know it sounds a little cliche, but you really do get much better service at a place like this. I think that’s what separates a store like ours and keeps us going. We have great service here. We have great products here, too, but it’s people (working at Greemann’s) that really connect with customers.”

Sullivan, who has worked at Greemann’s Furniture for 20 years, said the business has a wide variety of customers, and many have stories to tell when they visit.

“Your client base is very large and very broad when you’ve been around 100 years,” Sullivan said. “We have great customers from Indianapolis and Louisville, east and west both. The fact we have such a broad base, I think has been a big part of our success, too. We have also had generation after generation come in.”

Greemann’s is putting on a free concert Sept. 5 at Crossroads Community Park in downtown Seymour to celebrate 100 years, and the business also plans on having an anniversary sale Oct. 25 and 26.

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To celebrate 100 years, Greemann’s Furniture and Mattress Gallery is hosting a free concert Sept. 5 at Crossroads Community Park in downtown Seymour.

Whiskey Wolves of the West will open the night at 6:15 p.m. and will be followed by The Howlin’ Brothers at 7:30 p.m.

Concert tickets will be given away by 92.7 Nash Icon and 96.3 WJAA, and Bob and Kev’s BBQ and The Seymour Brewing Co. will be selling food and drinks.

The first 100 kids will receive a free shaved ice courtesy of Chillicen.

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Seven employees make up the team at Greemann’s Furniture and Mattress Gallery in Seymour.

Shawn Busby, president and manager

Bob Hougland, delivery

Joe Clark, delivery

Paul Sullivan, buyer and sales

Tami Furlani, sales and bookkeeping

Robin Bode, sales

Stacy Brooks, sales


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