100 years of business, 100 years of change for Green’s

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Imagine a family owned and operated business serving the people of a small town across 100 years and four generations. Then, head down to Green’s BrandSource Home Furnishings and imagine no longer, as they celebrate that very historic milestone.

Green’s BrandSource, or just good old Green’s Furniture to some, in downtown Fort Frances, is marking 100 years in business this year with a number of celebrations, including a special mix and mingle held on Monday, October 16, 2023, that invited past employees to return to the store and catch up with coworkers old and new.

Travis Green, the fourth-generation owner of the store, spent a portion of Monday setting up for that mix and mingle to be held later that afternoon. Pulling from 100 years of history, Green sorted through dozens of old photographs and newspaper clippings from years gone by and previous eras of the store, he reflected on his family’s 100 years in business.

“Essentially the store was started in 1923 by my [great-]grandfather shortly after he moved to the Canadian side of the border,” Green shared.

“My family came up through Edina, Minnesota, and they actually had a hardware store on the other side of the border in International Falls that started in 1906 or 1903. He came from a family of 10, so there was no room in the hardware store, so he moved over to Canada and got his mortician’s license, was what it was called at the time, and opened a funeral home.”

Green went on to explain that the future store owner, local entrepreneur R.V. “Rusty” Green, had his funeral home across the street from the current home of Green’s BrandSource. At the time, next door to the funeral home was a different furniture store. A complication of that neighbourly arrangement soon reared its head.

“Every time you’d have a funeral, it would block the door to the furniture store,” Green said.

“So he ended up buying the furniture store, so he did funerals and sold furniture.”

Green shared with a laugh that his life could have gone a very different direction had the family decided to stick with the funeral home over the furniture store, but when Rusty got out of the business, Green’s grandfather Van decided to stick with the furniture side of things, and history was made. Van passed the business to his sons Dave and Bob, and Travis Green bought out his uncle’s share in 2010 and his dad Dave’s share in the last couple of years. Even before becoming an owner, Green said he’s been working at the store since 1999.

From that initial furniture store, the business eventually moved across the street to its current location, though things looked quite different all those years ago. Back then, the store was a one-level building that you can still see by wandering over to the south portion of the building. That one-level building was eventually expanded with a second floor in the 1940’s, and the larger north wing of the building was added on in the 70s, transforming the business, at least structurally, into the landmark Fort Frances residents are familiar with.

The business has continued to grow as well. According to Green, the store saw growth through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has continued to maintain some of that growth beyond it as well, assisted by the support of the community around it.

“It’s amazing,” he shared.

“Most family businesses, after one or two generations tend to fall off and stuff like that. So to be a fourth generation and continue to grow is amazing. It’s something really special.”

100 years in business is nothing to be humble about, but it also marks one of the most dramatic changes in modern history, with society moving forward into a technological “now” at a breakneck pace. As a furniture store, the owners of Green’s through the years have been able to watch trends and technologies come and go. In 1998, during the store’s 75th Anniversary year, the Times asked Van Green about what changes he had seen in the industry during his time, and which had made the biggest impact in that time. His answer – technology, both large and small.

“Thinking back to one of the first big changes is when a refrigerator and a ringer-washer were a luxury,” Van said at the time.

“When these luxuries became necessities, the whole country changed. And the age of computers… [Bob’s] whole store inventory is in his pocket computer. Computers have allowed us to be able to keep on top of things, to analyze the market and its products better.”

At the same time, then-general manager Dave Green was asked to share some insight into where he thought the future would bring his store in terms of the products of the future. His answer, as relayed here in 2023, 25 years later, was quite prescient.

“Appliances will keep changing and combining,” Dave had noted.

“Washers will probably be front-loading and things like computers, televisions, and stereo equipment will all be connected in some way.”

Continuing tradition, Travis Green reflected on the changes he had observed during his time working for the family business. Rather than anything taking place in view of the customers, Green noted that significant changes had happened on the purchasing side of things.

“Back in the day, the store would buy lots of their furniture at different shows and that would be when they would stock up their inventory for the year,” he shared.

“Now, the way the companies are designed, it’s very much made to order, so we’re not back-stocking months and months worth of furniture in our warehouse. We’re able to order it from companies and they’re also able to get it to us in shorter periods of time.”

Green also noted that over the years, the kinds of items the store sells has scaled back in scope. Whereas in today’s age, smaller appliances and items like cribs, end tables and stereo systems can be found in multitudes at stores like Walmart or online on Amazon, not that long ago those items would have been available at your local furniture store.

“We’re much more focused on particular items that we sell now, as opposed to having a large breadth of different things,” Green said.

Dr. R.N. “Bob” Green, left, poses for a family photograph with former Green’s Brand-Source owner Dave Green and current owner Travis Green during the special mix and mingle event the store held for current and past employees of the store on Monday, October 16, 2023. Dr. Green is the brother of the late Van Green, a previous owner of the store and father of Dave and Bob. – Allan Bradbury photo

“When my grandfather was getting out of the business, we sold things like luggage and things like that.”

Green’s BrandSource Home Furnishings will be holding a three-day 100th Anniversary Sale this week, from Thursday, October 19, 2023 to Saturday, October 21, 2023 at their downtown Fort Frances location, with plenty of special offers and prizes available in store. It’s a significant event for a business that has been a significant part of Fort Frances for a century, and Green knows that success is owed in no small part to the customers who have shopped with them over the years.

“More than anything, I just want to thank them,” he said.

“Without the people of the Rainy River District, we wouldn’t have been able to make 100 years. We’re just happy they’ve supported us over the years and hope they continue to support us for another hundred.”

For more information on Green’s BrandSource Home Furnishings 100th Anniversary Sale, see the interior of this special section.

with files from Beth Caldwell

Multiple generations of the Green family line up for a photo capturing only a slice of the business’s long, rich history during Monday night’s get-together at the store. – Allan Bradbury photo