July 22, 2024 Donate

Chelsea, Chelsea Business, Community, County, Michigan

Merkel Furniture and Carpet One Celebrates 100 Years in Business

This month marks a big anniversary for Merkel Furniture and Carpet One. What began as a hardware/auto part supply store in 1924 would evolve over the next one-hundred years to become known as a helpful and dedicated family-owned business with its beginnings right in downtown Chelsea.

Merkel Furniture and Carpet One is celebrating 100 years of successful business this July.

For decades, Merkels has been recognized around Washtenaw County for offering full-service flooring, interior design, fine furniture, and mattresses. The company has two locations, one in Ann Arbor at Lamppost Plaza, and the other in downtown Chelsea, where the Merkel family has been rooted for a well over a century.

In looking back at its history, Merkels said it all began with Ferdinand (Ferd) Merkel, the son of German immigrants, starting the business as a hardware and auto part supply store in 1924.

Founder Ferd Merkel 1916

The Merkel history says:

“Ferd was soon after joined by his younger brother, Norbert Merkel, and they ran Merkel Brothers Hardware until their retirement in the 1960s. Ferd’s two sons, Jack and Bob Merkel, took over the business and advanced the company into the world of fine furniture and full-service flooring from the 1960s to late 1990s. Bob Merkel, who just recently celebrated his 93rd birthday, recalled that the two brothers, who both returned home from serving in the military, ‘were a good blend’ from beginning, because Jack studied business in college and Bob studied art and design.”

“The third-generation owners, Tim Merkel and Fred Zuidveld, took over the business in the late 1990s from Jack and Bob and guided it through the worst recession since the great depression.”

Tim Merkel said, “Perspective is one thing I’ve learned. A career isn’t a sprint-it’s more of a long-distance race. It takes perseverance, patience, and an openness to change.”

Starting in 2015, the company transitioned to Bob’s son, Howard Merkel, and Tim’s son, George Merkel. This partnership consists of the fourth generation of Merkels to take over the family business since its start in 1924.

A big reason for the Merkel’s success is that they were and are truly part of their community.

The Merkel Storefront in the 1950s

Throughout the last century, the Merkel family has been involved in various aspects of Chelsea life, including the Chamber of Commerce, non-profits, the public schools, and notably with the late Jack Merkel serving previously as the town’s Mayor.

Currently, the fourth-generation owner Howard Merkel is a on the board of Chelsea’s Downtown Development Authority, while his business partner George Merkel is serving a four-year term on City Council.

Jack Merkel, who passed away in 2020, was often heard saying about the town, “This is three square miles where people know each other, trust each other, and when we want to get things done, we can do it.”

The current storefront. photo courtesy of Merkel’s

Now in 2024, they continue to work and evolve the family business to meet the needs of who they serve. Recently, Merkels did a complete overhaul and modernization of the flooring displays at both the Chelsea and Ann Arbor locations. They said the new displays are a part of Carpet One’s newly integrated Room By Room program.

In regards to the recent renovations, George Merkel said, “The Room by Room program we finished this spring is designed to simplify and elevate the shopping experience for any of our customers that are starting a new flooring project. I think it can feel overwhelming for a lot of folks that are just starting the process, and now our new displays certainly take this sentiment into account. They are much more streamlined make the style, color, and pricing selection a lot easier for our customers. The new displays combined with our thoughtful and knowledgeable team of flooring specialists makes for a great experience.”

As a part of the 100 year anniversary celebration, Merkel’s will be having a month-long “Cheers to 100 Years” promotion at both the Ann Arbor (flooring only) and Chelsea locations, where all flooring, custom furniture, clearance items, and mattresses will be on sale until the end of July.

The Sun Times News asked George Merkel about the 100 years of successful family business.

“I believe we got to 100 years by being consistent and dedicated,” he said. “As a local family business, it’s a priority for us to provide personable and respectful service to all our customers from start to finish, whether it’s a mattress order or new carpeting for a whole house. Additionally, all of the owners over the years have also dedicated their professional lives to operating the company, and are or were rarely absent from the day to day operations. ‘The buck stops here’ as my Grandpa Jack used to say.”

He said he also believes that the “longer you stay in business, the better perspective you can have on things. When we had to shut down in the early stages of the pandemic there was a lot of concern obviously, but it was worth remembering that the business also endured events like the great depression, stagflation in the 1970s, and the great recession. It was helpful to know that our family had made it through challenging times and that we could too.”

The Chelsea location is at 205. S Main Street and can be reached at 734-475-8621.

In Ann Arbor, they are at 2396 E. Stadium Blvd and can be reached at 734-971-2795.

To learn more, go to https://www.merkelfurniture.com/.

Merkel Family Photo in 1916. Clockwise from upper left: Norb, Henry, Bertha, Ferd, Martin, and Mary