Many C-tailers have customized their businesses to last generations. But doing so successfully—and keeping the kin happy—is not as simple as it might seem.
By Audrey Gray
Sherrie Peoples grew up in Kinston, N.C., watching her grandfather and then her father build strong radio/TV retail businesses there from nothing.
"My grandfather was the first TV electronics person in Kinston, and my father worked for him for 18 years," she remembers. "But you know how it can be in family businesses. My grandfather wouldn't give him a raise! So my father started Highland TV in 1971, when I was in high school." After watching not one but two generations put in the very long hours it takes to build, operate and maintain a successful electronics retail business, Peoples wasn't particularly motivated to jump into the family business herself. She went off to college instead, and then married.
But years later, when she was at the very end of a pregnancy, her father asked her to help him out part-time at Highland TV—just for a couple of days.
"I'll never forget it," she says. "It was the third of July. I was writing out a receipt for a customer when my water broke. I said, 'Daddy! I have to go now!' And he said to me, 'You can't leave me alone in the store here!' I was like, 'Oooooh, yes I can!'"
Family-owned retail stores may not always be the most family-friendly environments, but when a family business is successful, as so many custom retailers are these days, the rewards often keep family members like Peoples coming back.
"I've been here 13 years now," she says. "It was supposed to be part-time but that never happened. My duties just kept getting bigger and bigger." Peoples' post-baby contributions to Highland TV went a long way towards expanding her father's original retail business to a full-service home theater and appliances installation company.