by Susan Marquez
Siblings Brannon and Brittney English are the fourth generation in their family to work in the furniture industry. Both work at their family’s store, Ross Furniture, in Flowood. Their mother, Bridget English, and aunt, Anita Watkins, are the third generation. Bridget and Anita are the daughters of Ross and Dorothy Stringer, who ran their own furniture store in downtown Jackson.
Ross Furniture was the offspring of City Furniture. Fred Stringer Sr. and his wife, Myrtle Ross Stringer moved to Jackson in the 1930s to run Lott Furniture before starting City Furniture in 1945. In 1958, Fred Stringer Sr. and Ross Stringer opened Ross Furniture in Jackson. “At the time, there were 28 furniture stores on Farish Street,” says Bridget. “I remember walking to the bakery across the street to get cookies. It was a different world then. Furniture was an all-credit business, and people came in like clockwork each month to pay on their bill.”
By 1983, Bridget’s father set his eye on Rankin County. “He felt that the area was growing and it would be “a good direction to go.” The store moved to Pearl in 1982, and in 1989, moved to the current location at 1949 Highway 80 East in Flowood.
Staying current in any business is important, but in the world of furniture, it is especially important. Michael English married Bridget in 1978 and began working at Ross Furniture. “Michael is the inspiration in taking the store in a new direction,” explains Bridget. “We fought many battles to get where we are now. In the furniture business, you have to work hard to establish yourself as a reputable business, and we are still evolving.”
Eclectic. Unusual. Boutique. Unique. Ross Furniture is not your typical furniture store. “We strive to be a different kind of furniture store,” says Bridget. “We offer pieces you don’t see everywhere else. We are certainly not a cookie cutter-type store.” Ross offers the total package, from design services to special orders of sofas and chairs to home accessories. “We want our customers to get exactly what they want.”
The most savvy business owners know that it is important to evolve, and one way Michael has done that is with Ross’s spin-off company, Pearl River Pickers, a warehouse for Ross Furniture as well as a place to find close-outs, market samples, scratch-and-dent pieces and more at affordable prices. From furniture to accessories, their website states, “all of our stock is new, used, or sometimes abused.”
Bridget’s daughter, Brittney, is the artist-in-residence at Ross Furniture. When the economy took a dive back in 2008, Brittney was on the floor selling. Looking for ways to create additional income, she pulled some pieces out of the warehouse and asked her dad if she could paint them. “It was ornate Indonesian furniture we had sold at one time,” explains Bridget. “She started painting it and it looked fantastic. Our customers loved it!” Brittney also began painting large canvases to compliment the furniture. “I have her first piece in our home and it looks great, but her work has really evolved since then. Brittney is very talented.”
Truly a family business, Bridget says son Brannon is great with customers and with buying. “He’s very talented as well, and a major asset to our team.” Bridget’s sister, Anita Watkins, also works at the store.
Any retail business requires “plain, hard work,” according to Bridget. “There’s no easy way to do it. We are lucky that we have very dedicated people working here, and we have a true love of this business. It’s a people business, and it’s not unusual for people we know to stop in and say ‘hi.’ We have very loyal customers, which is wonderful, as repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business. I think people keep coming back because of our unique offerings and our customer service. We strive, to the best of our ability, to please our customers.”
It’s exciting to Bridget that generations of customers are buying their furniture from Ross. We’ve had children of customers come in to furnish their homes. Our own children’s friends and neighbors are now coming in to buy from us. That’s a very rewarding feeling.”