For almost 50 years, this family-owned company has distinguished itself through its most natural asset: family. From customer service and delivery to salesmanship and management, this Crystal Lake team continues its promise to a new generation of shoppers.
To stay in business for nearly half a century, there are a couple of things a company must do: Put the customer first. Go the extra mile. Adapt to change. Complete the menial tasks when needed.
When it’s a family-owned and -operated business, like Mayfair Furniture and Carpet in Crystal Lake, you have to do all of that and stick together.
Those are some of the lessons that Pat and Shirley Murphy, founders of the 46-year-old company, have passed along to their children and grandchildren, who currently operate Mayfair.
At any one time since 1971, Mayfair has had one to five stores operating in the northwest suburbs. Pat Murphy first opened a small carpet shop across from Arlington International Racecourse, but today, the family’s current – and only – store, located at 661 S. Main St., in Crystal Lake, is the largest flooring and furniture store in McHenry County.
While the Crystal Lake store isn’t the oldest, Mayfair has been in the city for 30-plus years, and customers are familiar with the name and what the company stands for.
“Longevity is the first thing people recognize us for,” says Jeff Moritz, Mayfair’s flooring manager and a son-in-law of the Murphys.
The second attribute people appreciate is the extra mile Mayfair employees will go to care for a customer. That’s what happens when you’re a family business, Moritz says – and six of Mayfair’s 11 employees are family members.
“When you walk in here, you’re dealing with a direct family member or someone close to it,” he says. “There’ve been instances where, over the weekend, a customer might want a chair for delivery, but there are no delivery guys available. We may throw it in the car ourselves and bridge that gap. I think people see that and feel that.”
Customers Come First
Mayfair is synonymous with carpet because Pat Murphy began the business as a merchant and installer of carpet.
“It’s the bread and butter of the business,” Moritz says. “But today, you have to be involved in all of the floors at the same time. And if a customer can come to one location and do their one-stop shopping, it’s best for everyone.”
Mayfair is a full-flooring store, offering carpet, tile, hardwood, laminate, vinyl and custom pieces – like area rugs and stair coverings – to customers across McHenry County, whether it’s a private residence, commercial business, municipal agency, school or park district, Moritz says.
Flooring accounts for only about half of the business. The other half focuses on quality furniture and accessories, a second dimension that was added when Shirley Murphy decided a few couches would provide a better visual than stacks of carpets for customers passing by the company’s original Crystal Lake storefront, the former 84 Lumber building on U.S. Route 14.
“It started with couches,” says Kelly Schwerzler, president of Mayfair and daughter of the Murphys. “Then Mom said, ‘We really need end tables; now we need lamps; now we need accessories and pictures. It just kind of took off from there.”
Flooring and furniture are a good marriage, Moritz says, and over the years, putting more emphasis on furniture and adapting to customers’ decorating needs has helped the company weather economic storms.
“If people are doing flooring improvements to their homes, they’re considering furniture at the same time,” he says. “You’re emptying the room, so you may as well complete it. It’s really nice that you can bring a flooring sample over to the furniture and see how they work together, and vice versa – fabric samples you can bring over to flooring, as well.”
Regardless if a customer is shopping for flooring or furniture, the Mayfair team prides itself on putting the customer’s needs first, Moritz says.
“We talk to the customer about their needs and wants, and try to provide proper material for the job,” he says. “The customer’s concerns and wants are going to make them feel more comfortable moving forward with us. So, the profitability will come as long as you have a customer who wants to keep coming back.”
And come back, they do. Not only are Mayfair employees reaching into the second and third generations, but Mayfair customers are as well, with grandchildren of original Mayfair customers finding their way into the store.
“They’ve succeeded by taking care of the customers,” Moritz says of his in-laws. “We have second- and third-generation families coming in because of the good past experiences they’ve had.”
In a family-owned business, sometimes you’re the manager and sometimes you’re the janitor.
While Moritz spends much of his time on the floor working with customers, if he has to unclog a toilet, he will.
Fortunately, everyone understands that it’s a family affair, through and through, says Schwerzler.
“Whatever you have to do – it’s family,” she says. “We had a snowstorm here a couple of years ago, and we all had to pitch in to try to get the store open and running.
“It’s not easy,” adds Schwerzler, who has worked for the company for 15 years. “It’s not something where you leave your job and go home. It’s 24/7. We get together for family functions, and we’re still talking shop.”
Working for a family-owned business is a double-edged sword, Moritz says. While the business is everything to the family, family still comes first – even when it comes to business.
“We all know we have each others’ backs,” Schwerzler agrees. “In a corporate environment, if I needed a day off, I might be out of luck. But here, we’re all there for each other. If unforeseen circumstances happen in our lives, we’re there for each other.”
Another benefit of working with family is that younger generations can learn the lessons of their elders firsthand.
“At 12 or 13 years old my son was in here already starting to learn,” Schwerzler says. “That’s where he got his work ethic.”
And when times got difficult and delivery crews weren’t always available, Schwerzler would schedule deliveries around her son’s college classes.
“That’s how we roll,” she says. “You pull together and do what you have to do.”