Founded in 1964 by Lee and Dorcas Smith and John and Ethel Rhoton, this has been a family-owned and run business since the beginning. For a while, Lee Smith worked for a competing furniture company in Gate City, Virginia. Looking to provide a better life for his family, he and his father-in-law, John Rhoton opened a small furniture business in a Weber City building.
“My Dad had just gotten home from the Army. He was in his late 20s with no children and thought the timing was right to start his own business,” explained son Aaron Smith. My grandfather, John, wanted to help out my Dad and his daughter, Dorcas. Rhoton & Smith Furniture only stayed in its original location for four years and then moved to its current large facility at 2368 U.S. Highway N, where it has grown and expanded during the last 50 years.
Lee and Dorcas Smith continued to operate the store side-by-side for decades. Dorcas was the bookkeeper and Lee Smith was the face of Rhoton & Smith. Lee Smith was an iconic Scott County figure and always referred to himself as “the happiest man” in Scott County. He and his wife passed along to their children the true meaning of extreme personal service and customer satisfaction.
Siblings Aaron Smith and Arvella Smith-Lane are the third generation to oversee the store’s operation. Additional family members currently working in the store include Kristi Johnson and Darrell Ryan.
Rhoton & Smith carries a huge selection of furniture, including La-Z-Boy, Broyhill, Tempur-Pedic, Bassett and Vaughn. The company’s website features several major furniture lines available to the customer, and Rhoton & Smith will special order.
Over the years, the company has developed a loyal customer base and has received the Kingsport Times News Readers Choice Award on numerous occasions. “We have many, many customers that shop exclusively with us,” Aaron said. One local Kingsport businessman has not only filled his home with furnishings from Rhoton & Smith, but also the homes of his children.
The biggest challenge facing Rhoton & Smith today is not the big box furniture retailer because those stores cannot compete with Rhoton & Smith’s prices and personal service. “We can sell our furniture at lower prices because we do not have the same overhead as larger stores,” he explained. “Plus, you save on sales tax when buying from Rhoton & Smith.”
The challenge today is online shopping. “The younger generation is attuned to buying everything online and having it delivered to the home,” he said. Those shoppers, however, have additional problems to deal with.
“When you buy a piece of furniture online, assembly is generally required. And there is also the problem of what to do with the product packaging.” The process of purchasing furniture online may seem easier, but it is really more complicated than consumers think.
Furniture delivery is always an option with Rhoton & Smith. For a $25 fee, items will be delivered within a 100-mile radius of the store. Their employees also provide in-home assembly, plus removal of old furniture and all product packaging. According to Aaron, Rhoton & Smith will work with a customer in any way possible. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to help out our customers.”
Rhoton & Smith will also take customer trade-ins on purchases. The store does not accept credit cards, but offers layaway, Wells Fargo financing with a no interest option, and accepts personal checks and cash.
The store is open Monday and Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rhoton & Smith is one of Scott County Tourism’s 50 Years of Love Partners and is offering a small chest of drawers in white, black or ash for $69.
Community contributor Pam Cox is the tourism director for Scott County.