Howard Krasne has been in the home furnishings business for essentially his entire life.
He was just a gradeschooler when his father Abe first opened Abe Krasne Home Furnishings back in 1968.
“Where most kids go home and they’ll do homework and maybe have a baby sitter -we came down to the store,” he said.
At that time, the family store was located a few blocks from its current location — inhabiting a building that once housed the O.P. Skaggs grocery store in Downtown Fremont.
“They found this little 5,000 square foot storefront and nobody gave them a chance,” he said. “Dad didn’t have any money, and the banks didn’t want to lend him any.”
While Abe found it difficult to get his own business started at first, it wasn’t for lack of experience selling furniture.
In fact, he had already made a bit of a name for himself working for his brother-in-law at Kavich Furniture on Main Street.
“Uncle Dave (Kavich) had him managing the appliance department, and that store did a lot of business back in that era,” Krasne said. “As dad evolved into that business many people actually thought he owned that store because he just had such a big presence there.”
His presence was so big in fact, he even earned himself a nickname from loyal customers : “Trading” Abe Krasne.
So Abe decided to trade his job at Kavich for a chance at building something of his own, and that gamble certainly paid off as his namesake store is now celebrating its 50th Anniversary of business in Fremont.
Only ten years after opening in 1968, Abe’s business had outgrown its original storefront and the family relocated to its current location at 450 N. Main Street.
“We went from 5,000 to at the time was 20,000 square feet,” Krasne said. “We didn’t couldn’t really even fill the store up at the time.”
Shortly after moving into the new building in 1978, just after Howard’s first year in college, Abe was diagnosed with cancer.
“I quit school that year and ended up coming back home, and that’s when my career started full-time,” Krasne said.
Although Abe passed away in 2007, the family business he started has continued to grow and evolve under the management of his son Howard while still holding to the values he strived to embody throughout his life.
“I’m proud to say that those same core values are very much a part of what we do every day and those are things he instilled in all of us,” Krasne said. “It’s been a great ride and we are not done yet.”
Although his father isn’t physically around anymore, Howard says he still looks to Abe for guidance —glancing up toward a portrait of his parents hanging on the wall of his office nearly every day.
“Even though he’s not here he still has a presence, and I feel like he watches over me every day, and helps me make decisions every day, and gives me guidance every single day,” Krasne said. “I look over to my right and he helps me gain strength and keeps me on track.”
According to Krasne, one of the main keys to the businesses success through the years has been the commitment to customer service instilled in him and its many longtime employees by Abe.
“The only thing we have exclusive to ourselves is ourselves—how we treat people is what we can offer as our exlusivity,” he said. “It’s simple, as long as we continue to treat people fairly we will be successful.”
According to Krasne, along with a commitment to providing service before, during and after each sale the store’s success comes from creating lasting relationships with customers.
“There’s no promotional tool that I can use that is any better than that,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to be able to create relationships with people that have made those poeple our advocates, and it’s great to have advocates our there working for you.”
Krasne says building and maintaining close personal relationships with customers is what sets his business apart from large independent furniture stores like Nebraska Furniture Mart, and box stores like Menards, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart.
While Krasne Home Furnishings has been able to compete with box stores and national furniture chains, Krasne says the businesses main competitor in the future will be online shopping.
“Fortunately for the home furnishings industry internet sales have not been as strong in our category as they are in apparel, sporting goods and appliances — because those are easily shopped items,” he said.
While online shopping has caused massive change in the retail environment over the past decade, when it comes to buying home furnishings like couches, beds, and other large items customers still look to traditional storefronts due to several reasons, says Krasne.
“With furniture it’s harder because there’s scale involved and fabrics—so there is texture—and quality issues that you really can’t know just by looking at a picture,” he said. “Also logistically it’s very easy to UPS a blouse, but to get a sofa to your home is a whole different story.”
Krasne says the key to continued success for the business will be attracting customers from West Omaha, targeting through advertising, and being able to reach the younger generation.
“Our biggest challenge that i see in the future is trying to communicate to the younger generation effecively and being able to offer a value proposition that would get them to come into my store and give me an opportunity,” he said.
No matter what challenges may present themselves in years to come, Krasne says he is excited for the future of Fremont and the family business.
“Fremont is changing, we are experiencing some growth, so I’m excited about the next five years and beyond,” he said.”I’m not as young as I used to be but I still have plenty of energy left and we want this business to continue to grow and be a part of the community for a long time.”
For more information about Abe Krasne Home Furnishings, or to find 50th Anniversary deals, visit www.krasnefurniture.com.