Wagner’s Home Furnishings hits the mark, thanks to the matriarch
Traditionally, in terms of the definition, a “peg” is used for holding things together, hanging things on, or marking a position. But to the family at Wagner’s Home Furnishings, Peg was the name of the woman who started everything, taking hold of a too-big dream and barreling into an unknown future regarding her family and business.
What’s fun is, the definition is still mostly true—holding things together, marking a position. Peg really did these things. Nearly eleven years after the grand opening of Wagner’s in 1953, Peg lost the love of her life, Bill, and was forced by circumstance to either plow ahead in the business they began together (with six children), or close up shop. The latter would’ve been the easier option but Peg marked her position with a life she’d be able to hang her hat on.
“These are my wife, Faith’s, paternal grandparents, Bill and Peg,” said Matt Meusey, co-owner of Wagner’s, as we stood together admiring an old photo of the couple hanging on the heritage wall that sits almost at the heart of the showroom. “In the early sixties it was a different time, and being a female-owned business presented some unique challenges, especially in home furnishings, which was typically a male dominated industry,” said Matt.
He goes on to share how the family grew from there with Peg’s decision to hire two men (Ray Goeres and Bob Reiker) as owners to help run the business and, in a way, help run her family. The photos on the wall share the stories of these men and their own families, and how the children of those families and Peg’s family grew up around the Wagner name like roots taking hold.
Our walk around the showroom continued as Matt spoke about how indebted he is to the man who worked right below where we stood—Dale, the upholsterer. He’s the son to second generation owners Bob and Evelyn and unswerving in his talent of a dying breed. Wagner’s best kept secret? Maybe. Dale’s workshop is a tranquil, bright space with spools of all different types of material—a Candyland for making old things new again.
“It’s usually about three to four months,” said Dale, referring to the amount of time he’s typically committed to, thanks to a long list of clients who pursue his fine handiwork. The pieces that are brought in for Dale to restore aren’t necessarily purchases made from Wagner’s. They’re heirloom pieces, hand-me-downs, and favorites that are in need of cosmetic or functional makeovers, and done so with precision.
Making his way back to the showroom, Matt described the services that are offered at Wagner’s with genuine pride, and not of the boastful kind. The in-home design service is arguably their best service. It allows the workers to use their expertise to help the client make the most appropriate decision for a particular piece, right down to its fabric and color.
Matt spoke about the products—Stickley, Flexsteel, American Leather,—in a way that made another respectful nod to family. Business and family are not parallels here, they are two roads that have always intersected and merged, becoming one path.
“One of the greatest things that the ownership did in the second generation was, when the economy turned—’07, ’08, ’09—they made a conscious effort and even bigger commitment to quality when everyone else chased cheaper to survive,” said Matt. “The human-to-human element and helping [the client] make the best decisions for them and their home—that’s really allowed us the room to grow and prosper.”
Faith, Peg’s granddaughter, was emotional when saying her grandmother’s name aloud, the bittersweet taste of Peg’s early sacrifice clearly visible in her eyes.
“My grandma had such a classy way of setting an example. She was full of grace and gentle, yet firm and not afraid of hard work. She treated everyone with equal respect and is one my greatest mentors,” said Faith. “Customers still come in and talk about how they bought their first sofa from [Peg], or we’ve had my grandmother’s friends bring their granddaughters in to buy their first piece of furniture. There is something very special about that.”
She lit up when describing her favorite moments at Wagner’s—seeing orders come off the truck.
“I’m able to see a piece of furniture and know who ordered it, because it’s so them…Furniture in your home is such a personal part of your life,” said Faith. “These pieces are the witnesses to their everyday life.”
Stop in to meet the family or do some hunting for the inside of your home
Wagner’s Home Furnishings
916 SW Higgins Ave