Dick and Susan Wirta had in their minds a plan to own and operate a furniture store in Wadena for about 30 years before handing over the keys of the successful business to another able body.
They did just that recently as they handed over the ownership of the business to long-time employee Christina Theisen. Theisen started working at the business in 2004 after being approached by the Wirtas for a job. She enjoys the work of sales and decorating the business using the very furniture she sells. She also enjoys offering decorative consulting, which allows her to help homeowners decorate the entire room. The Wirtas say the business is in good hands with Theisen.
"We know that Christina will do an awesome job, she'll be a great new owner of Smith Furniture," S. Wirta said. D. Wirta said having Theisen on has been one of the best highlights of their time in business.
Taking ownership is something Theisen said she is prepared for.
"I always enjoyed being creative, so the decorating aspect was very appealing to me," Theisen said. "We enjoy helping people put together the perfect room."
"I think it's a perfect fit for me, I love what I do," Theisen said. "It just felt like the next step."
From the beginning to now, the Wirtas tried to stay on top of trends and the classics. With each piece going out the door, they worked to keep product on hand to fill the space. You'll rarely see an open spot among the two stories of the business. Many in the community enjoy watching the changing trends through the huge front display windows on Jefferson Street.
Wirta and Theisen said major changes in the business in their time has been the addition of accessories. A partial third floor for draperies was closed off and used for storage. Some mechanical changes worked to make the building more comfortable overall. But, in general, the desires of the original owners of the Butturff and Son Furniture store still hold true.
"You've stayed pretty true to what Butturff started," Theisen said to Susan.
Dick said running the furniture store was a great time and the people of the community made it a pleasure.
"We've been very blessed with the people we've met, people we've gotten to know," Dick said. "Business has done well for us."
When the Wirtas first came into the business it was just them and a delivery person. There is now typically four to five staff in the store and keeping up with deliveries. Dick still helps unload some of the furniture coming in. They have deliveries a few times a week and daily during the busier times of spring and fall. Those deliveries ensure truckloads of new items keep the region comfy.
After thousands of beds, couches, love seats, recliners, tables and endless accessories found their way to area homes and businesses, the Wirtas are slowly on their way out. Dick became semi-retired in October, a nice birthday present to himself. The news of his retirement was a surprise to some of his friends. Dick explained that he needed to slow down.
"I'm down to 40 hours a week," Dick said with a smile.
While Dick may not be around quite as much, Susan will remain on staff helping Theisen with the daily operations. She has also promised to spend more time golfing with her husband.
Taking the helm, Theisen said she has no plans of major changes. She instead plans on continuing to sell high-quality furniture like the business has always been known for.
The business at 302 Jefferson Street South has changed hands numerous times but always kept furniture at the heart of the business. It began there shortly after the building was constructed in 1900, according to Pioneer Journal archives.
- S. Butturff and Son Furniture moved into the building in 1901 and the son, Clyde, purchased it in 1904.
- On the death of his father (Samuel), Clyde changed the name of the store to Butturff & Son, the name it carried until it was sold to Merton Bottemiller and Alvin Engelmann, two Bertha boys in 1945, changing the name to Homecrest. (Yes, they once built Homecrest furniture out of there and according to Susan, they still sell Homecrest patio furniture there.)
- It became Smith Furniture Company in 1955 with owners Jake and Fred Smith. The garage portion of the property was in 1955 sold to Culligan Soft Water Service.
- Jake Smith's son Jerry became owner in 1980.
- Dick and Sue Wirta became owners in 1990.
- Chistina Theisen continues Smith Furniture & Carpet in Jan. 2020.
An excerpt from the 1904 Pioneer Journal states: "Butturff and Son own and operate one of the largest furniture stores in northern Minnesota. It is considered by far the finest between Minneapolis and Fargo. The goods they handle are new and up to date and their prices are exceedingly low owing to the fact that they purchase by car load lots."