If you’ve been at Genesee and Oak Street — say in the last 121 years — you’ve seen it. The colossal porcelain wonder spanning two storefronts doesn’t light up at night anymore, but you can’t miss it: The Scherer & Sons Furniture sign designates the oldest furniture store in Western New York.
Since 1877, Scherer & Sons Furniture has been calling downtown Buffalo home. In the beginning, the store rented space across the street, where the Catholic Health building now resides. It wasn’t until 1939 that Scherer bought its currents digs at 118-126 Genesee Street, where the family has been selling furniture ever since.
“When it comes to furniture, overhead cost is everything. You need floors and a lot of square feet to showcase the pieces,” explained Jim Scherer, a fourth-generation furniture seller. “But that isn’t cheap, and in the suburbs the cost for square footage is outrageous.”
So Scherer & Sons stayed put knowing they could sell better furniture for less.
Most other furniture is not actually wood, Scherer said. “It’s particle wood, which is essentially sawdust and glue. But not with us. We like solid, American-made woods from trees in the Northeast. That’s your cherry, black walnut, hickory or oak. The best hardwoods in the world are not far from us,” Scherer said.
Specializing in solid wood pieces from manufacturers that value quality, the store spans three floors, and each is staged as a well-furnished bedroom, dining or living room. The pieces are packed tight. You’re never more than an arm’s length from the nearest end table as you breeze down the aisles.
To visit every floor, take a ride on the Scherers’ freight elevator, first installed in the 1950s and serviced every month since. And then bop around for the newest trends.
“It’s important to evolve with the customer. At this point, we’re selling to the grandkids of people that I first sold to,” Scherer said. Which makes sense — according to a Consumer Buying Trends Survey, millennials have become the largest consumer group in the U.S. furniture and bedding market.
“Lately, there’s been a demand for rustic woods. Woods with knots and mineral marks which were once considered imperfections are now sought after,” said Scherer. “We’ve also seen a lot of interest for beds with built-in storage underneath. Because people want a spacious bed, but that often means less room for a dresser.”
Customers can personalize most pieces on the floor, from wood species and color to hardware and leg lengths. The modification of the moment? Performance fabric. Scherer says it’s great for easy cleaning and even better for customers with juice box-wielding children.
“That’s how American manufacturers compete with the imports. Imports are only typically available one way,” added Scherer. “When we get someone in here, we want them to recline in the couches and sit at the table. That’s the only way to see and feel our difference, which is quality.”
Scherer & Sons Furniture have seen a lot throughout their time downtown, but you could say their customers have seen even more.
“We’ve had a few claim to have seen a ghost in the basement. He is supposed to be tall and thin, so we know he’s not part of our family,” Scherer joked.