The Good family has been flourishing on Main Street in downtown Kewanee for 120 years running.
Phil Good relishes the story of how his eponymous furniture store received its now-famous moniker as “America’s Furniture Showplace.” Many moons ago, he was contemplating how to bring more customers to the sweet but sleepy small town of Kewanee, Illinois. He had developed an advertising campaign touting Good’s Furniture House as “Mid-America’s Furniture Showplace,” but when the flyers came back from the printer announcing the store as “America’s Furniture Showplace,” he wasn’t sure how to proceed. Being the kind, frugal and no-nonsense businessman typical of the American Midwest, he did not want to insist that the printer redo the order. Instead, he decided to go ahead and use the flyers, even if the modified slogan was just a wee bit boastful. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, 120 years after Elmer Samuel Good, Phil’s grandfather, first established his modest enterprise in the heart of downtown Kewanee, America’s Furniture Showplace serves as a world-class example of the innovation and creativity that thrives throughout our region. The store remains family-owned, now drawing on the fifth generation of the Good clan for leadership and retail savvy. Its fine-furniture campus encompasses 12 charming and historic buildings, each with a story to tell about its previous use, and how it was enhanced when it was added to the Good’s Furniture family. As these structures became members of that family over the past several decades, each was cleverly connected to its predecessors by a series of glassy skywalks and glass-enclosed elevators. The result is a renowned shopping experience that offers a unique adventure to customers from all over the Midwest… and beyond.
From Petrol Station to Fine-Furniture Gallery
When the first of several pivotal store expansions was being considered back in the late 1970s, Phil Good took up the opportunity and challenge of purchasing and renovating an existing petrol station adjacent to their then-singular flagship store. In another nod to that terrific frugality of his, he preserved that station in its entirety and literally built around it to accommodate several new furniture galleries. For many years after this particular renovation and expansion was complete, delightful remnants of that original structure could still be seen as customers wandered in amongst the sofas and dining room suites. Today, after yet another refresh of this piece of Kewanee history, the steel skeleton of the original station creates an ample and cavernous home for the store’s Good Life Sleep Sanctuary for bedding and bedroom furniture.
When success from the petrol-station expansion created a need for yet more retail furniture space, Phil, Mary and the family cast their eyes northward, to a beautiful turn-of-the century mercantile storefront on the other side of their main store. In walking through this three-story, then-empty former hotel and boarding house, they couldn’t help but envision a dramatic atrium with skylights and a glass-enclosed elevator. If John Portman could start an architectural revolution with what The New York Times called his “fizzy extravaganza of space and light” at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, why not at Good’s in Kewanee, too? Thus, the first of four sky-lit atriums served by glassy elevators was created at America’s Furniture Showplace.
Everyone’s Favorite TV Personality
The beauty of the Good family’s Midas touch is that it is by no means confined to designing handsome retail galleries and filling them with fine home furnishings. So, while awe-inspiring atriums were being designed and built at the store, Phil and Mary were also contemplating the clever use of television advertising to entice customers to downtown Kewanee. In fact, they were among the first retailers in the region to extensively use such advertising, with Mary as the store’s spokesperson.
While some of the early TV commercials are now viewed with joyous amusement by all, what was created along the way was an admired and celebrated TV personality. This was made all the more genuine for Good’s many loyal customers when Mary would greet them by name as they walked through the doorway for a repeat visit.
Crossing a Highway in Style
Mary Good’s successful television presence effortlessly translated into further success at the furniture store. But with no more opportunities to expand on the east side of Main Street in downtown Kewanee, Phil, Mary and the family could only look westward, across that street. The fact that Main Street also happened to be an Illinois state highway, traveled by trucks of all shapes and sizes and governed by a complex code of governmental regulations, did not deter the Goods at all.
Soon, Mary could be seen in TV commercials touting the progress of the skywalk construction, putting downtown Kewanee nearly on par with Midwestern sisters like Minneapolis and Des Moines. And not long thereafter, customers were traversing this wonderful bridge to a whole new city block of additional fine-furniture galleries. Along with this signature skywalk high across Main Street USA came further retail innovations like a cozy wine cellar bistro, literally carved out of the “cellar” of one of Goods’ turn-of-the-century buildings, as well as a series of sumptuous bed-and-breakfast suites located inside the furniture store. All innovative ideas, and all ahead of their time.
A Lifetime of Impact
As Phil and Mary Good and their extended Kewanee family celebrate the 120th anniversary of their fine-furniture store, they continue to do what they do best: quietly rolling up their sleeves every day and working to create the next big idea out on the expansive prairies of north-central Illinois. And they continue to attract customers from the four corners of the globe, who come to experience all that our region has to offer.
The ultimate effects of these yeoman’s efforts are far more profound than they might ever imagine. By doing what they do best, the Goods are helping to keep small-town America and its values vibrant, breathing new life into some of the finest examples of historic mercantile architecture in the Midwest, and following all the cutting-edge precepts of sustainability and new urbanism, to boot. All this, without forgetting Phil Good’s original promise to always be America’s Furniture Showplace. iBi