165 year-old Winglemire Furniture ‘has stood the test of time’

John Penny Richard Stand in front of Winglemire Furniture

How five generations of the Winglemire family created Michigan’s oldest family-owned furniture retailer.

By Shandra Martinez

At 165 years, Winglemire Furniture, in downtown Holly, is the oldest family-owned furniture retailer in Michigan. That distinction is the result of the hard work and innovation of five generations of the Winglemire family. 

John Winglemire and his sister, Penny Raupp, are the fifth-generation owners. They believe the survival of the business through wars, recessions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other hardships shows its resilience. 

“The furniture store has stood the test of time, and we have 165 years of collective experience in the furniture industry, strengthening the heritage of each generation,” John said. 

The Winglemire family has been synonymous with furniture and the historic village of Holly since 1858. That year, Joseph and Christine Winglemire moved into the north Oakland County community and set up shop.

Skills learned in Europe

Joseph Winglemire brought his woodworking skills from his native Bavaria to the United States. Like many other furniture-makers of the 1800s, he also worked for a time as an undertaker, built caskets, and had two matching black horses to pull a hearse.

In 1858, he built a furniture store, which included his family’s living quarters, at 107 N. Saginaw Street. Joseph and Christine had six children, and most of them worked in the business. Their son, John, inherited the store, and John’s son, Maurice, took over when his father died in 1926.

Although Maurice led the business for less than two decades, his contributions were significant. He was very active in the community, and he came up with the slogan the store still uses: “Let Winglemire’s feather your nest with a little down.” A mural on the side of the store still displays the slogan. While keeping the original store and its property, Maurice bought a former auto service garage across the street, at 112 N. Saginaw Street, to expand the business. 

Maurice and his wife, Edna, had two children, Donald and Barbara. Maurice died suddenly in 1943, just as Don graduated from high school and was drafted and served in World War II. Edna took over the operation until Don came home, and then they ran the store together until her death in 2003. Don continued to manage the store until his death in 2017.

Don and his wife, Hazel, had four children: Lynn, John, Penny, and Richard, who have been active in the business throughout the years. Lynn passed away suddenly this year. John, Penny, and Richard work in the store in different roles.

Adapting to current needs

The retailer continues to evolve to meet customers’ needs, including having an online presence with a website at Winglemire.com and Facebook page. The store carries quality brands such Smith Brothers, Flexsteel, Restonic Bedding, and Mavin.

Anna’s Interiors has joined the footprint of the store. Owner Elena Neirink brings 36 years of experience, from window treatments to kitchen design. The collaboration has allowed the store to become a one-stop shopping experience for design, furniture, cabinets, window treatments and accessories.

Looking back at the store’s past, the siblings have a few favorite stories.

The most amusing may be the one about Penny and John’s great-great Aunt Clara – daughter of founder Joseph Winglemire – who would climb into the caskets to show the customer how the body fits. 

Penny adds that in the early years of business, bartering was common. Customers would trade chickens and eggs for a mattress.

“Our father, Don, would have children bring their used Christmas trees down to the store and give the children a ticket to get into the Holly Theatre to watch a movie,” Penny said.

John recalls freight coming in by railroad until the early 1960s. He and Don would go to the Holly Depot, pick up the shipments, which arrived in wooden crates, and haul them to the store. The house of Don’s sister, Barbara Winglemire Keener, was made from those crates and is still standing and owned by the family.

The store’s reputation beyond Michigan was evident during its sesquicentennial celebration in 2008, when then-President George W. Bush sent a letter of congratulations.

The family believes that goodwill has been built every day over the last 165 years. 

“Quality work and friendly service are what we’re all about.” John said. “When you shop at our store, you interact with the owners. We understand how important the customer’s homes are to them. We take pride in finding manufacturers that give the consumer a range of products and prices to meet their needs. We’re also delivering the product to you and setting it up.”