Ninety years and three generations mean J. Conn Scott has a furniture pedigree that is revered on the Eastern Shore
Businesses on the Delmarva Peninsula don’t get to celebrate their 90th anniversaries unless they’ve done some things right. Very right. And there is perhaps no better exemplar of this truth than J. Conn Scott, which finds itself in this enviable position not by luck or accident but rather because of core values and philosophies that have made them consistently stand out from the crowd three generations after their founding.
It all began in Selbyville back in 1924, a time when the Sussex County town was still enjoying its status as the “Strawberry Capital of the World.” At that time, J. Conn Scott was a medley of businesses, selling clothes, housewares and, of course, furniture. After 15 years of uninterrupted success, the man for whom the company was named separated the furniture-sales division and focused his attention on that aspect business exclusively.
J. Conn Scott, Inc. continued to soar as a family business. It included his wife, Helen, daughter Jane and his son William Conn Scott, who took the reins from his father in the 1960s. Under William’s leadership, the style upon which the store’s reputation is based was established. He also doubled the size of the showroom, in 1973, to its current 35,000 sq. ft., which enabled the store to carry an unprecedentedly vast array of selections and styles.
Enter the 1980s and generation number three. Handed the baton by his father, William, current leader Richard Scott, with the help of wife Lisa and brother Robert, has evolved and refined J. Conn Scott into a business that enjoys a unique reputation of quality and service throughout the entire region.
“Though we started out as a community-furniture store, we’ve evolved over the years into what is now a destination store that continues to serve the community,” said Robert, who, among other things, handles marketing for the company. “A large part of our business is actually from customers who seek us out from as far away as D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis — even farther than that!”
But hitting the ripe old age of 90 on the Eastern Shore requires more than just a pretty façade or lots of square feet. It also takes a reputation for integrity, honesty, reliability and, as in the case of the Scott family, a certain grass-roots earthiness that has ultimately become as intrinsic to the community bedrock as blue crabs and strawberries.
This means that on any given day, there will likely be multiple members of the family on the floor and ready to serve you (though you may need to be just a wee bit patient: On the day we’d arrived, the company president, Richard, was in the warehouse, loading furniture into a customer’s vehicle, while Robert was finishing up with some conspicuously happy customers on the sales floor).
“We don’t hide in our offices here, playing on the computer and pretending to be important,” shared Robert. “We have a top-notch staff, sure, but we really enjoy helping customers ourselves, whether they are brand-new to our showroom or are one of our cherished three-generation customer families, who sometimes come in with stories about our grandfather, back in the good ol’ days.”
While that ethos has undeniably been central to their success, the staff Robert alluded to is certainly another contributing factor. Their salary-based sales team (meaning, no awkward commission-driven sales pressure) not only has an average tenure of almost 20 years, they possess a wealth of design knowledge from Richard and especially Lisa, who is something of a rarity in this area: an ASID-certified interior designer with a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
That pedigree has allowed them to legitimately and successfully brand themselves as the furniture store “for the design-oriented customer.” Each year, Richard and Lisa attend trade shows, conclaves and conferences all over the map in order to get up on the latest products, design principles and trends. JCS offers free design consultation and that the designers themselves — including Richard and Lisa — may often be found at customers’ homes, making floor plans and developing concepts with them.
“Over the years, Richard and Lisa have interacted with and been influenced by a variety of internationally renowned designers who have refined and enriched their concept of décor and design,” Robert said. “You really have to visit our showroom and see our vignettes, which we are refreshing constantly. We do things with fabrics and colors that no one else is doing in this area. Some folks stop by to take a peek at what we’ve done, to get inspiration for their own homes.”
It would also be a good idea to visit their impressive show-house in Rehoboth Beach, which they acquired in 2000 and has become something of a mecca for urban professionals who have second homes or retirement homes down on the Shore. Restaged by Richard and Lisa every week, the 1,200 sq. ft. space accounts for an increasingly substantial portion of J. Conn Scott’s annual sales. This tendency to be modern and trendy carries over to JCS’ diverse selection of delightfully eclectic product lines, too. Offering the best to be had in classic, traditional, modern and outside-the-box chic furniture, JCS enjoys exclusive vendor relationships within the region and is proud to represent such elite names as Ralph Lauren, Hickory Chair, Henredon, Baker and Wesley Hall.
“I think it was a vendor who best described our business when he referred to us as ‘a really, really big boutique,’” Robert said. “I think that’s one of a few things that make us truly unique and why we’ve been fortunate to have so many different and loyal customers over such a long period of time. It’s the sense that you can find whatever you want yet be inspired at the same time.”
“Having a store that’s one of the oldest family-run furniture stores in the nation, still right here on Delmarva, really makes me proud,” added Richard. “I think a fundamental reason we continue to thrive after all these years is because we realize we’re ultimately in the business of building relationships — the core principle on which my grandfather started this business 90 years ago.”
J. CONN SCOTT
Rehoboth Beach: 302-227-3780
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