Gerry Willey, The Man Behind Fenton Home Furnishings

  • By Chelsea Mills
  • 20 Jun, 2014

Started in 1979 with one store and one employee (himself)

Fenton Home Furnishings, Fenton, Michigan

Mr. Gerry Willey opened Fenton Home Furnishings 35 years ago on April 1, 1979, and since then he has grown it into a successful furniture business consisting of four locations, as well as 34 employees, including seven salespeople and ten designers. That makes him the force and the talent behind this impressive establishment, complete with a compelling life story that speaks to his remarkable achievements.

Born July 17th, 1939, Mr. Willey lived on the east side of Flint and came from very humble beginnings. He left high school in the 12th grade to join the Marine Corps in which he served from 1956 to 1959. Mr. Willey opened his Fenton store with only one employee-himself doing all the buying, selling, unloading, and pricing for the original establishment. He had two high school boys come in at 3 PM to help with deliveries. His dad had helped him covert a $400 old blue pickup to a delivery truck by building a wooden box on the top to hold all the customers’ merchandise. He has since come a long way to his present delivery fleet of five trucks.

In fact, the red-carpet delivery service now offered by Fenton Home Furnishings is unique. With each delivery, the customer can have things moved to another location in their home in order to accommodate their new purchase. That is, the professional delivery staff will move old furniture upstairs, downstairs, or even out to the garage of a customer if need be. After each delivery is completed, the client receives a special surprise gift, and a follow-up phone call a couple days later to ensure everything went as expected.

Though most merchandise the store carries is standard for the furniture business, there are also many one-of-a kind items available at each location, thereby making each store unique in its own right.  All the stores have the latest in styles and fabrics in furniture as well, with experienced staff at the ready with whom customers can consult. Complimentary home design services are offered at each location to help clients choose the right furniture and accessories to showcase their homes, while custom window treatments and blinds are also available at the Frankenmuth store. “Our customers expect us to take care of them. We offer quality, style, comfort, and design experience. Our customers are informed, well-read and enjoy travel.” In order to consistently meet these customers’ needs, he adds that Fenton Home Furnishings professional staff stay up-to-date on home design shows and magazines to ensure clients see the latest design trends.

Nowadays, Mr. Willey just watches his well-structured business operate, allowing him more time to discover other adventures-including a perhaps not so well-known purchase of the Fenton Hotel from the bank in 1996. He found out quickly enough that he was not cut out for the restaurant business and sold it in 1997-content now to enjoy observing the company he so carefully constructed run successfully. “For the most part, I just sit back and watch,” he laughs, but then he becomes more serious and says, “But I am very proud of my family.” Willey has three children who are involved in the business: Nick, who is the operations manager overseeing the finances; Kristi, who is in charge of advertising, web development, and buying; and Rodney, who is the general manager. At one time, his other two children also worked for the company-Lora, worked in the office, is now the Coordinator of Education for Reverence Home Health Care & Hospice, and Gerry Jr. who once delivered furniture while going to college. He has since earned his law degree and works at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP in NYC.

“God is Good and Life is Good-only in America” is Mr. Willey’s motto. He goes on to explain, “Fenton has been good to me; (the store) has an excellent service department and our reputation has gotten us far. About 85% of our business comes from current customers and referrals. Once we sell someone, we usually have him or her as a customer for life. The reason is we ‘hug’ our customers, and they get special treatment here.”

Recently he had a conversation with his grandson who is 15 years old and a student at Powers Catholic High school. Mr. Willey asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. His grandson replied, “I have no idea.” About that remark Mr. Willey says, “You know what, I’m almost 75 years old and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I never dreamed I’d sell furniture, but you know… , I enjoy it, I really do.” Ninety-eight percent of the merchandise in the store is American or Michigan-made Mr. Willey explained proudly, adding, “We strive to carry only the best, and we strive to make our customers happy.” And he seems to have succeeded in doing both for a very long and successful time.

Fenton Home Furnishings

1136 North Leroy Street

Fenton, Michigan

(810) 629-0650

Around The Town with Chelsea

By chelseajaie 09 Aug, 2017

Starting a new business? Looking to give your current logo a 'refresh'? It can be easy to just think  'I need a logo!'  - what you are saying is that you want a graphic representation of your business to use on your marketing materials. What you  need however is a memorable overall ' brand' that will attract customers to your business. Luckily, at Behind Your Design, we can help you with all your needs, even the ones you don't know yet.

How do I create a brand? 

It's important to know your brand values and aspirations. Basically, your WHY? What made you start your business in the first place? What problem are you solving and what are your passions? Long term, where do you want to be in 2, 5, 10 years? The answers to those questions are the core of your brand. We want to give you the tools you need to reach your greatest potential.

Next, we'll work on the personality of your brand. What will your brand look like? Sound, feel, act like? Knowing your business' personality allows it to shine through everything we do. It also helps narrow down your target customer and decide how your business will interact with them. Appealing to a certain audience makes marketing efforts meaningful and effective.

Consistency is key. We work together to create an entire brand concept and easy guidelines to follow. Colors, fonts, patterns... Anything to make your look consistent will be part of your brand. Then, we use those elements across all platforms (website, social media, business cards, etc) to ensure your voice, mission and design flow fluidly and works together.

Once you've created this brand, it's time to go beyond that and uphold the reputation. Your customers have to truly believe in your brand, just like you do, and will, in turn, become loyal advocates of your business. Not only will they stay local to you but they'll also recommend you to others.

Your business is so much more than just a logo. We believe building a solid brand can become a company's greatest asset, so we cover every step:

  • Web Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Email Marketing
  • Facebook Marketing
  • Mobile App Design
  • Trade Show Booth Design
  • Custom Photo Gifts
  • Speaking Engagements
To view our design portfolio, click here.

By chelseajaie 25 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of JDLab's new responsive website and logo design. JDLab is a family owned business dedicated to delivering high quality work in every department. Founder J.D. Hicks’ goals in 1950 remain their goals today:  "Provide every professional photographer with the highest standard of quality and service, and to work as partners to help studios grow as successful businesses."   To learn more about what JDLab can do for you please click   here . Contact us at   Behind Your Design   to help you design your next website.
By chelseajaie 18 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce that we have created a new logo for Wayne Contracting Services, LLC. Wayne Contracting Services, LLC is a licensed and insured construction company providing a variety of construction and remodeling services to SE Michigan. Give them a call for all your contracting and remodeling needs! If you are in need of a new logo contact us at  Behind Your Design   today to get started!

By Chelsea Mills 18 Jul, 2017
Join the growing team at Behind Your Design at 100 S. Adelaide St. in Fenton, Michigan!

- 40 Hours A Week (Mon-Fri - 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM with working lunch)
- Paid Holidays
- Opportunity for 401k Retirement Matching
- Must be able to multi-task, delegate and prioritize jobs that come in
- Must be able to track time spent on projects
- Responsible for ordering from vendors
- Responsible for managing multiple tasks and keeping jobs moving forward by following up with clients and our designers
- Friendly pleasant personality
- Responsible to answer phones, greet customers, take messages and packages
- Team environment
- Time Management and Organizational Skills
- Matching expenses/orders with client billing
- Approximately 25% of the job will be coordinating photo booth jobs including contracts, graphics, staff, programming booths, posting photos, burning DVD’s and communicating with clients.

Technical skills needed, but not required to apply, we would train qualified applicants:
- HTML Email Blasts (Constant Contact, MailChimp)
- Website Building
- Basic Photoshop Skills
- Professional Email Skills
- Word, Excel
- Asana Task Management System
- Social Media Posting
- QuickBooks

Click Here to Apply

By Chelsea Mills 11 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design recently had the pleasure of designing a new website for Bennett Communication Solutions. Bennett Communication Solutions is a local family company that opened its doors in 1945. They provide telephone answering services, remote receptionist services, voice mail, and other services to meet the needs of their business customers. While they maybe local they have clients nationwide. Their clientele includes health care services, property management and real estate, contractors and of course business professions. To learn more about their services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 03 Jul, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce that we have created a new logo and business card design for DaniJo Hawkins Pottery a local Genesee County artist. Danielle Hawkins owner of DaniJo Hawkins Potter loves to create in clay. She believes in recreating, repurposing, up cycling. She believes you can beautify someone else's trash into your treasure and that is seen in her pottery! To view her amazing work please click here . If you are in need of a new logo contact us at Behind Your Design  today to get started!
By Chelsea Mills 27 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the logo design and responsive website launch for Linda Lucas Design. Linda Lucas owner of Linda Lucas Design is dedicated to creating an environment that reflects her client’s personality and lifestyle, by capturing their design dreams and making them a reality. With over 13 years’ experience, Linda offers a wealth of knowledge in both new construction, and remodeling an existing space. Linda understands that listening to a client’s needs is key, and is committed to working with you to create a beautiful living environment, while embracing your style through inspiration and imagination. She completed her interior design studies through Interior Design Institute, a Certified Interior Design (C.I.D.) approved program. To learn more about Linda and her services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 02 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of Bella Vita's new responsive website. Bella Vita Senior Living will be opening their doors this summer in Grand Blanc, Michigan.  At Bella Vita they believe in an  our all-inclusive service and care with an all-inclusive rate makes the decision of placement for your loved one a lot simpler. It allows you to budget your family member finances consistently without the stress of a changing add-on rate provided by other companies. They provide many services such as life enrichment programs, laundry, housekeeping, beauty shop, dining services and more. To learn more about the Bella Vita and their services please click  here   . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 02 Jun, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of the Corner Bar and Grill's new responsive website. The Corner Bar and Grill is a rock ‘n’ roll gastro pub located in Fenton.  If you are looking for a great place to dine with a terrific atmosphere the Corner Bar is the place to be! Their weekend brunch menu is sure to please everyone in your family with plate such as chicken and waffles, speciality brew cakes and loaded omelettes and lets not forget their mimosas and beermosas! They also feature live music every Saturday. So make sure to check them out the next time you are in Fenton! To learn more about their menu please click here Contact us at   Behind Your Design    to help you design your next website.
By Chelsea Mills 10 Apr, 2017
Behind Your Design is excited to announce the launch of Mansour Realty's new responsive website. Mansour Realty, Inc  is local company provides strategic, high-quality services and solutions for commercial real estate owners, investors, managers and users. Although their named changed from Mansour Developments to Mansour Realty, Inc. they have 50 years of experience in researching, purchasing, developing and selling properties. And for the last 15 years they have been putting their expertise to help other companies with their commercial real estate needs. To learn more about the Mansour Realty and its services please click here . Contact us at  Behind Your Design  to help you design your next website.
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