Tri-Village News

Father passing torch to son at furniture store

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Fred Heer poses for a portrait with his son, Trent, May 16, at Lombards Fine Furniture store in northwest Columbus. Fred is retiring from Lombard’s after more than 40 years and Trent will assume ownership duties.
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Couches have triumphed over computers, sofas over software, for Trent Heer.

After a successful, but stressful, career as a salesman in the field of technology, the German Village resident surprised his father as well as himself when he expressed an interest 18 months ago in working at Lombards Fine Furniture off Bethel Road.

"We were very pleased, but somewhat surprised when he said he had an interest in coming into the business," Fred Heer said last week.

Fred Heer, 69, a lifelong resident of Upper Arlington, went to work for the furniture empire's founder, Dennis Lombard, in 1970.

He didn't know much about the business at the time, he said.

"It was a unique opportunity for me that Mr. Lombard in 1970 was looking for someone with a business marketing background, which I did from Miami University, but I knew very little about furniture," Fred Heer said.

"It was a great opportunity for me that he had the trust to bring me in and train me."

Now, Fred Heer has placed his trust in and trained his 40-year-old son, and will be heading into a sort of retirement.

"I'm not going to disappear overnight," Heer said. "I will be turning things over to Trent and continuing to train him."

"I think that's the only way to do it," said Trent Heer, who also wasn't that familiar with furniture until a year and a half ago. "He had Mr. Lombard to teach him the business.

"I think we'd call this one a little bit of a surprise," Trent Heer added. "I was cruising along as sales guy and had some good success and thought that's what I would do for a career.

"Then I kind of got burned out on that. This is a big challenge, so it's kind of re-energized me again to come into work."

Lombards, 2060 Crown Plaza Drive, has been having a retirement sale to mark the transition from father to son.

Dennis Lombard launched the business in 1949.

Fred Heer bought it from him in 1976. At the time, he said, the enterprise consisted of three stores on Lane Avenue, two in the Lane Avenue Shopping Center and a third location a short distance away.

He consolidated the three stores into one off Bethel Road in 1984.

Otherwise, Fred Heer said, he has remained true to the founder's original intent.

"We have stayed the course," he said. "Mr. Lombard's vision was there should be a place people could buy better quality, better looks, and not have to compromise tastes.

"It was his thought that there was a market there for that kind of store," he said.

"There always has been and still is a demand for new styles, new fashions, updated looks and the better quality so you can buy a piece and keep it for 10, 15, 20, 30 years."

By the same token, the current company president said, the more expensive but long-lasting furniture lines have been supplemented, in part at the urging of his son, with "better starting and middle price range than we once had."

"He's got some great ideas in terms of merchandising and advertising and sort of systems analysis and analyzing rates of sales," Fred Heer said.

"He's done a lot of good things for us.

"He's trying to pull us into the 21st century. He's been taking over responsibility for the last year or so. I think he's got the sense to do what we need to do going forward in the future."

"We're getting our feet wet in a lot of different interactive categories," Trent Heer said.

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