Retail Alliance, the non-profit association representing retailers throughout Hampton Roads, announced today that Willis Furniture is the recipient of the 2018 Lifetime Achievement award at their Retailer of the Year event on May 24, 2018. The award will be presented to fourth-generation owner, Ben J. Willis, III.
“Willis Furniture has earned its place as our 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Ray Mattes, Retail Alliance President/CEO. “They are as in touch today with their customers as they were a century ago and know what they are looking for and respond accordingly,” he continued. “Being a local business, they are flexible and can react quickly to the changing trends and requirements of their customers. This, along with emphasis on quality, customer service and satisfaction, has resulted in their success. It sets them apart from their competitors in Hampton Roads.”
Since 1892 when John Willis, Jr. opened his first furniture store on Church Street, opposite St. Paul’s church in downtown Norfolk, the Willis family has been a mainstay in furniture retailing in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. The company made various moves from its original site until in 1950, Willis Wayside Furniture Company purchased property on Virginia Beach Boulevard and Thalia Drive where it remains today. Over a century of measured expansion has brought the company to its present location, nestled in the pines at the heart of Virginia Beach.
“I have been fortunate to have a great foundation to build upon,” Willis remarked. “My family worked so hard to get us to where we are. My father and grandfather were heavily involved in the community, a tradition I have continued throughout my career.” This has ranged from chairing the BBB and sitting on various boards including Bank of Hampton Roads, Salvation Army, Family Services of Tidewater, Norfolk Academy Alumni, to helping with the Finance Committee of my church and coaching for Southside Lacrosse. “I am humbled by this award and am thankful to my family and my Willis team. I am surrounded by a dedicated, loyal group of people who have helped us continue and strengthen our good reputation in the community.”
In a time when stores change owners and image regularly, Willis Furniture stands as an example of unswerving dedication to its heritage and to the customers it serves. With ownership spanning four generations, it is a true family business. John Willis, Jr. was joined by his three sons: Ben in 1910, John III in 1920, and Grayson in 1923. Grandson Ben Jr. came aboard in 1953 followed by Great-Grandson Ben III in 1985.
The Lifetime Achievement Award looks at a variety of criteria, including: longevity; profitability; community involvement; reputation; visual merchandising; aesthetics; and they need to be a retail merchant. Previous winners are: 2017: W.T. Patrick & Sons; 2016: Decorum Furniture; 2015: Goodman & Sons; 2014: Dan Ryan; 2013: Mary Barnett.
Retail Alliance’s Retailer of the Year awards is to be held at Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton on May 24th from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. RSVP at www.retailalliance.com/events