Catskill, NY, May 14--The doors of Oren's Furniture open today for the beginning of the end, according to the Daily Freeman.
After 86 years of continuous operation, spanning three generations, a retirement sale marks the end of the family-run furniture and carpet store.
Allan Oren has worked in the business since he was 22, and with no children coming in to follow in his footsteps, he'll be the last Oren to retire there.
Founder Abraham Oren, Allan's grandfather, ran the business with his wife Jenny while their sons were growing up. That second generation, Allan Oren's father, Meyer, and his uncle, Isidor, eventually were employees before assuming control of the business.
Abraham Oren, in a short-lived partnership, opened his second-hand furniture store in 1918 on Bridge Street in Catskill, where a municipal parking lot now sits. The Oren family continued to grow the business through the 1950s, since when it has largely been as it is today: a combined 55,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse in several relatively large buildings on Main Street and Water Street.
The history of the business, including expansions and relocations, was compiled in a manuscript Meyer Oren completed after his retirement in 1990.
Oren's survived the Great Depression, during which it expanded into an adjacent storefront when, as Meyer Oren wrote, "even a small step, such as spending another $25 a month for their stores...was a gamble. ...By today's standards, you wouldn't last a week.
"At that time, Bridge was the main street," he said. It predated the Thruway and other routes, and a steady stream of traffic passed the doors of Oren's daily on U.S. Route 9W.
Oren's also rode out World War II, a time when resources for quality furniture were scarce. Meyer and Isidor enlisted in the National Guard, but they were never called up.
During those years, with manufacturing focused on the war effort, what Oren's could stock was "generally of poor quality," Meyer wrote. And much of it wound up in the dump once supplies of better-quality goods resumed, according to the history.
Over the years, Oren's filled other storefronts, either year-round or seasonally, including a space formerly known as "between the banks," where a drive-through teller station now sits.
The business finally landed at 361-363 Main St., two spaces previously occupied by a men's clothing store and Boughton's Department Store.
Allan Oren said the company modernized the two buildings following the war, and in the 1950s purchased the Water Street warehouse, a former knitting mill that had become a manufacturing site. The property was modernized again in the 1990s to display furniture in room-like settings.
The unique overhead walkway connecting the two buildings was the first of its kind in the area, and Meyer Oren recalled municipal leaders were reluctant to approve the project.
The success of Oren's began during a time when people didn't travel far to meet the needs of daily life, Allan Oren said. "They didn't go to Albany or Kingston," he said. "In those days, this is where they lived, this is where they shopped."
Most of what has sold at Oren's in recent years was made in the United States, though imports have been on the rise lately.
Allan Oren said that in the early years, furniture manufacturing was concentrated in places like Gardiner, Mass, and Grand Rapids, MI.
"Just like the textile mills, that moved to the Carolinas," he said. "The Carolinas are still the center."
Oren said the family came to the United States from Eastern Europe, settling first in Albany, then moving south. He said he was born in Catskill and intends to stay, even though he's getting out of the furniture business.
"I've been here 41 years," he said. "I don't have any kids in the business. ...It's a very viable business (and) if I had kids in the business, I would stay in business."
At its peak, Oren's employed about 30 people.
"As soon as you say the building is for sale, you've essentially put yourself out of business," Oren said. "They go together."
He expects the retirement sale to last no more than two months and said there's been a great deal of interest in the real estate.