furniture theme

After 70 years in furniture business, Gerard Ruth is shutting down his business.

Ruth got his start at the furniture business receiving his neighborhood friends to assist him haul mattresses and driving a delivery truck. Now, health issues are forcing him to close down his Gerard's Furniture shop.

"I am going to keep on working. I must deliver all this furniture."

Twenty-two years back, when he turned 65, Ruth brought to help the inventory is sold off by him.

"So I came back."

Ironically, the firm that assisted him in 1996 back with the retirement sale is currently helping him with this sale.

87, ruth does business like he always did. His store does not have a website. "I really don't text and that I don't email," he said. "Only been a couple of years ago we got a computer for accounting."

Gerard's includes a focus on American-made furniture created out of premium leather.

"All that stuff on the world wide web, it's like going into the ships. It is gambling. You don't know exactly what you going to have," he said. "Some of this leather is seconds, some of it's rejects."

Ruth started working in the furniture industry during his senior year in Baton Rouge High in Lloyd Furniture Co., then at 1126 North Blvd.. After graduation, he attended LSU, then joined the Coast Guard.

He returned to Baton Rouge and also to his job.

He was a salesman in Hemenway's, Ruth got into hydroplane racing. He was a driver for the Tom Cat Baby, a ship with a Corvette engine that won the dangerous and prestigious Pan American race Lake Pontchartrain in 1958.

Throughout the boat races, Ruth became friends with Lewis Gottlieb, president of City National Bank. Gottlieb endorsed some teams that were racing.

Ruth got a call from Gottlieb one afternoon. The proprietor of Simon Furniture Co. had expired and his children were not interested in taking over the business. Would Ruth be interested in having a furniture store?

Gottlieb told him to check out the store, and he'd help him finance the deal, when he had been interested.

"It was a great store, and I knew I could do some good over there," Ruth said. The issue was money. However he did have a life insurance policy he bought from a fellow member of the Red Stick Kiwanis Club.

"Mr. Gottlieb advised me to bring him that insurance policy into the lender," Ruth explained. "He told me'You're going to create it."

Gerard's Furniture opened in 1966 at 1530 Foster Drive. There were three employees: the Ruths and a bookkeeper. At the shop, Ruth sold furniture Throughout the afternoon. In the evenings, he also delivered.

At that time, the trend in furniture has been Mediterranean- and Spanish-style furniture. A successful Atlanta furniture salesman detected Gerard's Furniture and told Ruth, he had to get some of those things in the store. Ruth told the guy he did not have the money to purchase the furniture, so that he called a Virginia manufacturer and got them to send three suites of Mediterranean-style furniture on credit to Gerard's. "That cranked up business," Ruth explained. "We offered the hell out of that furniture."

A couple of decades later, Ruth heard about a store on Florida Boulevard that was up for sale for $500,000. Ruth checked the building at 7330 Florida Blvd. and chose to buy straight from the source it and fix it up.

"It cost $2 million to revive the entire construction," he explained. The loan was really big, it was divided between CNB and St. Landry Bank in Opelousas.

Gerard's Furniture's Florida Boulevard place opened around 1975. The store won nationwide acclaim for its completeness of the selection, which included artwork, furniture, fabrics, rugs and accessories. 1 room is filled with George Rodrigue prints in the 1970s. His son Larry includes a gallery of original Louisiana art and prints in a different part of the store.

To round out the selection the major furniture markets are visited by Ruth in North Carolina.

"Baton Rouge has ever been interested in great taste and traditional furniture," he said. "The people who buy nice furniture want to take a seat inside, would like to feel this, and when they have any understanding in any way, unzip it and see what's inside it."

Over the years, Ruth has had health issues, including cancer and diabetes. He had been diagnosed with lung disorder. That led him to shut the shop after meeting with four kids and internet his wife.

"I got outvoted," he explained. The decision was made to liquidate the organization, Since his kids have professional jobs.

"I never got rich, but I was able to raise four kids, send them off to school -- and not need to pay any institutions or attorneys to get them out of difficulty," he explained.

Regardless of his years in business, Ruth stated he chose overnight to shut the store.

"My family would go mad trying to figure out everything in the furniture store," he said.

He made a point of helping eight grandchildren and his children find items in the store to help decorate their own houses.

Plans are to spend selling off of the inventory in Gerard's. When everything is gone, the shop will close.

Ruth said he has seen a boost in clients since announcing his organization was shutting down. The day after it was announced he closed, 500 people showed up at the shop.

"It's been rewarding."

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