End of an Era: Union Furniture Shuts Doors After 112 Years in Business

Portrait of Union Furniture store owner Simon Becker on the sales floor on Monday, April 22, 2024. Becker is in his finals days as owner of the store as it is now closing.
Portrait of Union Furniture store owner Simon Becker on the sales floor on Monday, April 22, 2024. Becker is in his finals days as owner of the store as it is now closing.
Alisha Mitchell

It’s quiet on the floor. The only sound comes from a small handful of employees enjoying their last days of work together. After more than a century in downtown Macon, Union Furniture is closing its doors.  “Last Chance” signs are posted on on street corners and the team is doing what it can to sell its inventory. 

Owner Simon Becker has navigated the store through many challenges, from the closure or relocation of many downtown businesses when the Macon Mall was built it in the 1970’s to economic recessions and COVID-19.

“For the longest time while I was here the buildings next to me were empty,” Becker said.

The store was founded by Becker’s grandfather, also named Simon Becker, in 1912. Family legends is they opened the doors four months after the Titanic sank.  Back then it was on Poplar Street.  When his grandfather died in 1951, Becker’s father and an uncle took over. Eventually they moved the store to its current location on Third Street.

Becker, who took over in 2016, says the store was able to stay afloat thanks to loyal customers and dedicated employees.  Becker recalls a conversation he and his uncle had 30 years ago with an older man who showed up in the store.  The man told them that he used to work there.

“My uncle looks at him and says I don’t remember that name and I have been working here for quite some time. When was this?” Becker said.  “He [ the older man] said well, when I started working here, I was eight years old and it was in 1914 and my job was when the route collectors would go out to collect all the accounts I would hold the reigns of the horses. ”

There are many customers who stand out as well, said Becker, including an older woman who called the store about a problem with a living room suite she’d recently purchased. 

“The complaint about the living room suite was that it was red,” said Simon Becker. “I was trying to figure this out because the living room suit was indeed red.”

He asked her if she meant to order a different color or if there were issues with the shipment. 

“No,” he remembers her saying. “It is red, and red is the color of the devil, and the devil is lounging all over this!”

The Becker family has run Union Furniture through good times and bad and Becker says the decision to close was a difficult one.

“It’s an incredibly hard decision and very emotional,” Becker said. “The pandemic was really challenging in more ways than just you’re closed down, you’re wearing mask, etcetera.” 

He said he had a hard time finding reliable employees and had to choose between keeping the store open with only a few staff members  or letting go and starting a new chapter in his life.  Becker is ready to try something different, even if he doesn’t yet know what that is.  

“My wife writes resumes for the federal government. She has offered to teach me,” Becker said. “That sounds like watching paint dry to me, but I’m sure there will be something that comes up and interests me.” 

 

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    NatashaJul 2, 2024 at 2:07 pm

    Great story!

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    DevenJul 2, 2024 at 12:34 pm

    Great article!! Can’t wait to read more of your work Miss.Mitchell!

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