HANCOCK - When Richard and Roberta Kahn decided to retire from their life-long business, they knew the perfect fit to carry on Gartner's tradition.
New owners Mark and Gail Johnson, former employees and friends of the Kahn's, officially purchased the Hancock business last Friday.
"I have 38 years of retail experience and this is a great opportunity to own a well-established, top-quality retail store with the best professional staff in the area. I'm excited for the opportunity to own my own retail store along with my family," Mark said.
A a section of the showroom of Gartners Gallery
Their son Jordan recently graduated from Michigan Technological University with a degree in Business Management, and will be the store's business and operations manager. Gail has been with Gartners for 21 years as their interior designer.
Gartners has a rich history in Hancock, dating back to 1886 when German immigrants, Jacob and Isadore Gartner, started their retail business.
In the early 1900s, their newly built department store with four floors of merchandise was the largest department store north of Milwaukee.
Four generations of Gartners built the business into two successful retail stores. Gartner's Department Store, which closed two years ago, and Gartner's Furniture Store have been staples in downtown Hancock for more than 100 years.
Richard Kahn is the great grandson of Jacob Gartner, and he and Roberta operated Gartners for more than 60 years.
"It's kind of a bittersweet thing after all these generations," Roberta said. "For more than 124 years it's been in the family so we're hoping the name will continue and we have faith that it will with Mark and Gail. They're talented people and we've known them for a long, long time."
"They've got talent and they've got an educated staff with years of experience in everything from interior design and carpeting to furniture and lighting," he said. "I wish Mark and Gail all the best in the business."
Gartners has long been recognized for offering Keweenaw residents top name-brand furniture lines like Flexsteel, Ashley, Lane and Sealy.
Among some of the physical changes the Johnsons will be making to the building is the expansion of their design center, located near the front of the store.
"We will offer on-site residential and commercial interior design consultation services at no charge to our customers," Gail said.
Joining Gail in the design center, is Katrina Aho, who has 12 years of interior design experience.
"We will help our customers with their redecorating or remodeling projects," Gail said. "We can help them with colors, furniture arrangement, fabrics and flooring."
The Johnsons will also be expanding the home decor displays throughout the showroom, as well as remodeling the flooring department.
Don Berger, who has been managing the furniture store for 33 years, will be heading the flooring department.
Gartners will have an expanded flooring gallery, and continue the quality service customers have come to expect.
The full-service flooring department specializes in carpeting, hardwood, ceramic tile, laminate flooring, vinyl, and outdoor carpeting. Gartners carries top brand names like Beaulieau, Shaw, Mohawk, Congoleum and Mannington.
"We offer free measuring services and design advice," Don said. "We work with a lot of the local landlords on rental properties so we have special pricing and programs for them."
There are 12 employees currently on staff at Gartners.
"The staff here provides great service and is already knowledgeable about the lines we carry," Mark said. "The average employee has been here for 23 years. Their experience is extremely valuable and we can't imagine this business without them."
In addition to the Johnsons, Don and Katrina, the staff includes office manager Julie Paulson, Sealy expert Glenn Perrow, sales associates Tracy LeClaire and Cindy Blake; and in the warehouse, Gerry Karry, Fran Beaudoin and Tim McMillan.
With 25,000 square feet of showroom space spanning two buildings, customers can expect a unique shopping experience.
"The furniture is set up in vignettes so you can visualize what it would look like in your own home," Gail said. "The furniture is accessorized with pictures, lighting, accent pieces and rugs."
Gartners has furnishings for the entire home; bedrooms, dining rooms, home offices, formal to casual family living spaces; window treatments and flooring. Styles range from contemporary and traditional to vintage and lodge looks.
"We have styles to suit everyone's taste both in the store and available to order," Gail said.
Friday morning, Helvi Kangas of Houghton dropped by Gartners to pay her bill from a loveseat she ordered recently.
"We've been so pleased with everything we will not look anywhere else," she said. "They are very cooperative in getting us whatever we want to our satisfaction. And, if it's not in, they will special order it."
While the Johnsons officially took over as the new owners Friday, Mark said his relationship with Richard started several years ago.
"While going to college at Michigan Tech, I worked for the men's clothing store called Stern & Field, which was a part of the Gartner's business," he said. "I also worked for a year at Dayton's in Minneapolis in retail."
Additionally, Mark worked for Joffee's in Hancock and ran the Copper Rivet in downtown Houghton for nine years.
For the past 26 years, Mark has worked as manager of merchandising for Michigan Tech, overseeing the bookstore and University Images. He will continue his position at Tech while his wife and son manage the day-to-day business.
With the newly expanded services and product offerings comes a new name for Gartners. It's now called Gartners Gallery: Furniture, Flooring & Design Center. "We feel this will better communicate our offerings because we are so much more than a furniture store," Gail said.
Free delivery is available in the four-county area.
Gartners Gallery is located at 115 Hancock St. in Hancock.
Business hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; until 8 p.m. Wednesday; and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Gartners Gallery will no longer be open Sunday.
For more information, call 482-4000 or visit gartners.com.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Gartners of Hancock. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.