Dana Olson (left) represents the fourth generation to work at the family's furniture store in Marquette. He is joined in the store by his wife, Julie (from left), son, Dixon, and the third generation, Beverly and LaRue Olson. KELLY PRESNELL/The Salina Journal Following in the family footsteps Marquette furniture store has been passed through 4 generations of Olsons By ALF ABUHAJLEH The Salina Journal MARQUETTE — The bitterness of poor quality long outlasts the sweetness of a low price. That's what the sign in Dana Olson's office reads. The adage is credited for the success Olson's furniture store has enjoyed for decades. Literally. Founded in 1886, Olson's Furniture has been passed down from father to son for four generations. It's the oldest business in Marquette and probably one of the oldest stores in the state, said Dana Olson, 40. "High quality and competitive prices. That's how we have survived," said Dana's father, LaRue Olson, 69. "People drive here from Salina and McPherson for those two reasons so it must work." Indeed, Marquette isn't much of a retail center. With a population of about 600 people, the city is easy to miss among the wheat fields south of Highway K-4. But the Olson family, who didn't disclose sales figures for the business, has withstood competition from furniture stores in Salina, McPherson and Wichita. The company has two outlets in town, and at one time the family ran four furniture stores in Marquette. The business is operated by the Olson father-son team and their wives, Beverly, 65, and Julie, 32. The only paid employee is a delivery driver. To market its products, Olson's Furniture spend about $15,000 annually on radio and newspaper advertising in central Kansas, Dana Olson said. The store sells mainly high- end bedroom, dining room and "When we sell you a piece, it should last you a lifetime." Dana Olson Olson's Furniture owner living room sets. A polished cherry-wood dining table, for example, costs about $1,000. Add six chairs and the set will run you close to $4,500. "There are a lot of businesses that sell furniture at lower prices, but you are not going to have the same quality," Dana Olson said. "When we sell you a piece, it should last you a lifetime." The Olsons emigrated from Sweden and settled in the Marquette area in 1881. Five years later, Olof Olson started the furniture business as well as Olson's Funeral Home. The funeral home is still in business. Dana Olson said it was common back then for a family to sell both furniture and funeral caskets because both were built by carpenters. Although it's unclear where the first furniture store was located, the Olsons have sold household goods from the same downtown building since 1868. Olof Olson saw the demand for furniture increase dramatically in Marquette with the arrival of settlers in the late 19th century, LaRue Olson said. "People came here with nothing," he said. "It was mainly Swedes who moved here and they brought only what they could fit on a wagon." The store was passed on to LaRue's father, Victor Olson, who ran it during the 1930s Great Depression. "Things were not that bad here during the Depression," LaRue Olson said. "We needed food and farmers needed tables and beds." Dana and Julie took over the business in 1993. Dana said there have been opportunities to open a store in Salina. "Sometimes, you have to be satisfied with where you are in life," Dana said. "I don't think it would be Olson's Furniture if it were anywhere but in Marquette." Although it's early, Dana hopes either his 5-year-old son, Dixon, or 8-year-old daughter, Brooke, one day will run the business. His hopes might be in vain, however. Asked if he wants to be a furniture dealer when he grows up, Dixon shook his head and said: "I want to be a race car driver."
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