After 70 years in furniture business, Gerard Ruth is shutting down his company.
Ruth got his start getting his neighborhood friends to assist him haul mattresses for 50 cents an hour and driving a delivery truck. Now, health issues are forcing him to shut down his Gerard's Furniture shop.
"I'm going to continue working. I got to deliver all this furniture"
This is the second time that Ruth has had a sale. When he turned 65, Ruth brought to help him sell the stock off.
"I went home, and after about 10 days, I went stir crazy," he explained. "So I came back."
Ironically, the company that assisted him with the retirement sale back is assisting him with this going-out-of-business sale.
Like he always did ruth, 87, nevertheless does business. His shop doesn't have a site. "I don't text and that I do not email," he said. "Only been a few years ago we have a computer for bookkeeping."
Gerard's has a focus on American-made furniture created out of premium leather.
"All that stuff on the world wide web, it is like going into the boats. It is gambling. You don't understand exactly what you going to have," he explained. "Some of the leather is seconds, some of it's rejects."
Ruth started working at the furniture industry during his senior year at Baton Rouge High at Lloyd Furniture Co., at 1126 North Blvd.. After graduation, he attended LSU, then joined the Coast Guard during the Korean War.
He returned to his occupation and also to Baton Rouge with the furniture store.
"I had been making $35 a week at Lloyd Furniture, then I got an offer from Hemenway's Furniture on Plank Road," he explained.
Throughout that time he was a salesman at Hemenway's, Ruth got into racing. He was a catalyst for the Tom Cat Baby, a boat with a Corvette engine that won the most prestigious and dangerous Pan American race Lake Pontchartrain.
With Lewis Gottlieb, Ruth became buddies Throughout the boat races. Gottlieb endorsed some teams that were racing.
Ruth got a call from Gottlieb, one day. The owner of Simon Furniture Co. had died and his children were not interested in taking over the enterprise. Would Ruth be interested in owning a furniture store?
Gottlieb told him to check out the store, and he would help him fund the offer, when he had been interested.
"It was a nice shop, and that I knew I could do some good on the market," Ruth explained. The problem was money. Selma, his wife along with ruth, had just had their second child, and he just had a few hundred dollars after paying the hospital bill. But he did have a life insurance policy he purchased from a fellow member of the Red Stick Kiwanis Club.
"Mr. Gottlieb advised me to bring him that insurance policy into the bank," Ruth said. "He told me'You are going to create it."
Gerard's Furniture started in 1530 Foster Drive in 1966. There were three workers: the Ruths and a bookkeeper. In the store, Ruth sold furniture during the day. In the evenings, he also delivered.
At that moment, the trend in furniture was Mediterranean- and Spanish-style furniture. An effective Atlanta furniture salesman detected Gerard's Furniture and advised Ruth he had to get a few of those things in the store. Ruth told the guy he didn't have the money so that he got them to ship three suites of Mediterranean-style furniture to Gerard and called a Virginia maker. "That really cranked business up," Ruth explained. "We sold out the hell of that furniture"
Ruth heard about a store.
The loan was really big, it was split between CNB and St. Landry Bank in Opelousas.
The Florida Boulevard place of Gerard's Furniture opened around 1975. The store won nationwide acclaim for the completeness of the selection, which included furniture, artwork, fabrics, rugs and decorative accessories. One room is filled in the 1970s with George Rodrigue prints. His son Larry prints at a different area of the store and has a bunch of original Louisiana art.
To round out the selection Ruth visits the major furniture markets in North Carolina.
"Baton Rouge has always been interested in good taste and standard furniture," he explained. "The men and women who purchase fine furniture want to take a seat inside, would like to feel it, and when they have any understanding at all, unzip it and see what's inside ."
Over the years, Ruth has had health issues, including cancer and diabetes. He was diagnosed with chronic lung disease. That led the store to close after meeting with his wife and four children.
The choice was made to liquidate the organization, Since his children have professional jobs.
"I never got rich, but I was able to raise four kids, send them all off why not try this out to college -- and not important link have to pay any institutions or attorneys to get them from difficulty," he explained.
Regardless of his years in business, Ruth stated he decided overnight to close the store.
"My family would go mad trying to work out everything in the furniture store," he said.
He made a point of helping eight grandchildren and his kids find items in the store to help decorate their homes.
Plans are to spend the next few months selling of the inventory off in Gerard's. When all is gone, the shop will close.
Ruth said he's seen a boost in clients since announcing he shut down his organization. The day after it was announced he was shutting, 500 people showed up in the shop. The following day about 400 people were there.
"We had them come in from 20, 30, 40, even 50 years back to buy things on our economy," he said. "It has been rewarding."