Column: Haverty’s marks 125 years as family business
By Maria Saporta
Friday, October 2, 2009
Haverty Furniture Companies Inc. kicked off a celebration of its 125th year in business, one of a handful of Atlanta businesses to have survived so many years.
Haverty’s celebration took place Sept. 29 at the Crowne Plaza-Ravinia at the same times as Haverty’s 2009 Leadership Conference.
What makes Haverty’s so unique is that it has been run, and continues to be run, by the Haverty family from its beginning in 1885.
AGL Resources Inc. can boast of being older than Haverty. It started providing gas lights on Atlanta’s city streets in 1856, and it is now a Fortune 1000 company. But AGL can’t come close to matching Haverty’s family history.
The company was founded by J.J. Haverty and his older brother, Michael Haverty. J.J. Haverty had 10 children — five sons and five daughters.
All his sons entered the business, but the only one who successfully ran the company was J. Clarence Haverty.
The company was then turned over to his son, the late Rawson Haverty Sr., who joined the furniture retailer in 1941 and was named its president in 1955. Rawson Haverty Sr. retired as chairman of the board in 2000, and the company was turned over to his nephew, Clarence Haverty Ridley. Today, Ridley serves as chairman, and his cousin, Clarence Haverty Smith, serves as the company’s president and CEO.
Amazingly, when one considers the difficulty of passing a family business from generation to generation, the Haverty family represents an unbroken chain of leaders at the helm of the furniture retailer.
The strength of family ties came in handy this past year as the company experienced its first annual loss since World War II. The company lost $12.1 million in 2008.
In looking to the future, there are numerous fifth generation family members working with the company. One of Rawson Haverty Sr.’s sons, fourth-generation Rawson Haverty Jr., is senior vice president of development and a director.
Bert Ellis a producer
Don’t be surprised if Bert Ellis, a longtime technology leader in Atlanta, gets loud.
Ellis, the founder of the former Atlanta Internet company iXL, was at the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers Annual Appreciation Dinner on Sept. 23, and I asked him what he has been up to these days.
Interestingly enough, Ellis said he was the executive producer of the documentary movie that recently was released: “It Might Get Loud.”
The movie, which has been playing at the United Artists Tara Cinemas, features three electric guitar players of three different musical generations — Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame; the Edge of U2 fame; and Jack White of the White Stripes.
Ellis said he partnered with his longtime associate and former Atlantan, Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures.
“Thomas and I have invested in a lot of stuff together,” Ellis said.
“He’s a fairly accomplished guitar player, and he said no one has ever done a documentary about the electric guitar.”
So Tull hired Davis Guggenheim, director of the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Trust,” to do a movie using three leading musicians.
The idea was “to let them talk and play guitars and offer musical inspiration,” Ellis said. “They have three different styles. They had never met before doing this movie.”
Eerily, a lead innovator of the electric guitar — Les Paul, died Aug. 13, the night before the movie premiered.
One of Atlanta’s highest-ranking women executives is Carol Tomé, chief financial officer of The Home Depot Inc. And when she spoke to the Rotary Club of Atlanta Sept. 28, it was easy to understand how she has been a corporate survivor at Home Depot.
Tomé, who joined Home Depot in 1995, worked with co-founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank; then she worked with controversial CEO Bob Nardelli; and now she is working with current CEO Frank Blake. She is one of the few, if not only, senior Home Depot executive who was able to survive the rocky transitions of leadership.
At Rotary, Tomé was questioned by Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Tomé is deputy chair of the Atlanta Fed, and she will take over next year as its chair.
In her comments, Tomé described the challenges that Home Depot is facing in this economy. The company has experienced significant sales declines as people have spent less on improving their homes or buying new ones. It has cut 2,000 people from its “support staff,” more commonly known as corporate head- quarters personnel.
When asked whether the recession was over, Tomé responded, “It’s less bad.” She also said there has been an interesting shift in the way people are spending their money in the stores. “Paint is the only positive department in our stores,” Tomé said assuming that people who are out of work may take on a project to paint their homes.
World Habitat Day
Atlantans will celebrate World Habitat Day on the morning of Oct. 7 along the Atlanta Beltline as a way to highlight their commitment to affordable green housing on transit. The event will be held at the corner of Kirkwood and Flat Shoals in Reynoldstown.
Speakers will include representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Atlanta-based Habitat for Humanity International, the city of Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.
A task force of about 70 people have planned the event, and hundreds of people are expected to come to the celebration.