After 107 years, America’s family-owned furniture business collapsed

2022-07-27 0 By

Pittsburgh’s oldest family-owned business, Lanzafame Furniture, is closing its doors after 107 years.Founded in 1915 on Black Diamond Street, Lanzafameh furniture was once the oldest home appliance dealer in Northern California.Back then, Lanzafameh sold everything, including stoves, televisions and refrigerators.After World War II, founder Lanzafame’s grandfather, Camillo, began building the current location at 711 Railroad Avenue, intended as a store for hardware products and boats, but after failing to reach a deal with tenants, Lanzafame decided to sell furniture at the address.It is now a warehouse.In the early days, almost all furniture was assembled together, mainly from the Carolinas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.Ordering the furniture, which was typically made of maple, walnut or cherry, could take six to eight months and had to be shipped in packed wooden boxes that had to be carefully pried open with a crowbar.Most furniture now needs to be put together after it is received, and any product ordered online can contain 40,000 different parts.Chris Lanzafame, the third-generation owner of Lanzafame Furniture, has devoted his life to his business.He started working for his business when he was 13, first assembling furniture, then loading and unloading delivery trucks, and even helping to customize the installation of mattresses.Chris Lanzafame earned a BACHELOR’s degree in business from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from San Francisco State.He took over the family business after his father’s partner retired in 1978.Now, at the age of 67, he says it is time for a new adventure and he wants his wife and children to play with him, such as listening to music and sailing.”It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.We hope to find someone who will take over and if he wants to continue making furniture here, that’s great.”Chris Lanzafame said.While businesses have changed and downtown Pittsburgh has gone through some tough times, Mr. Lanzafame believes his family’s business has survived with his wife and son, Jeffrey, by his side.However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the slowdown in production and transportation in 2019 have brought new challenges.Even for months, Chris Lanzafame stopped collecting rent from his tenants.”We don’t want to lose these tenants,” said Chris Lanzafame.That’s why I’m committed to finding us a “good tenant.”Because this is my city, and I like downtown.I don’t want to leave a building empty for a long time.”Chris Lanzafame has sold furniture to generations of Pittsburgh residents and others in nearby cities, and when he delivers it to people’s homes, he often finds old pieces he sold years ago, which he finds fascinating.Pittsburgh resident Susan Julian Gates called Lanzafamme “irreplaceable.””The closure of Lanzafame is a real loss to Pittsburgh,” she said.It is rare for a family business to last more than 100 years, but Lanzafameh furniture is more than just a family business.For so many years it has been a “pillar” of downtown and a manifestation of the spirit of old Pittsburgh.It is also the only retail business that survives in a bustling city centre.”