It’s not often a furniture store is considered a pillar of the community, but Lacks has done it successfully for 86 years. Serving the Valley through community outreach, superior customer service, and the highest quality furniture in the region, it’s no question as to why they’ve had such long lasting success. When Sam Lack, founder of Lacks, first opened his store’s doors in 1935, he never dreamed his business would see the advancements it has seen today.
Lee Aaronson, CEO at Lacks Valley Stores, reminisces having grown up with Lacks and witnessing the transformation of the store from a tire shop and automotive supply store to selling home goods after World War II.
“I cannot remember a time when Lacks wasn’t a part of my life,” Aaronson said. “During World War II, we couldn’t get tires and couldn’t get rubber, so we started selling appliances. We also sold bicycles. I remember my first bicycle was a Lacks flyer — just a red bicycle with our logo.”
Aaronson remembers using carbonless paper with red ink to formulate purchase orders into a giant book. “We would merge red, white and pink purchasing orders, and make multiple copies by hand,” he said.
Now the CEO, Aaronson began his career on the cash register in his teens. He attributes the growth he sees in Lacks today to the core values the company has always embraced, including, “building relationships, honesty, and being happy,” he said.
“It was important for us to establish really strong relationships with the people that worked with us — both the people that worked for us and our vendors, whom we’ve developed friendships throughout the years” Aaronson said.
Creating friendships is just one way Lacks builds on its relationships. Making sure to run a business that was equal and enjoyable to every party was a priority for its founders and continues today.
“It was always important to my father that every relationship be good for both parties. If it’s not a good relationship for our customer, then they won’t come back and shop with us. If we don’t have a good relationship with our employees and they’re not treated fairly, they’ll find someplace else to work,” Aaronson said. “If we are dealing with our vendors and we don’t make sure that they’re making money in the deal, then they won’t sell to us anymore. So it’s about building relationships that are fair and honest.”
Kris Karr, Director of Communications at Lacks, agrees that the company is “people centric.” Being family-oriented has contributed to the company’s thriving longevity. Karr, who’s been with the company for 22 years, recalls being personally mentored throughout her position as advertising manager.
“Because of that support, it made me feel so loyal to the company. They helped me grow professionally and nurtured me,” she said. “I’m very, very thankful, and I’m not the only person within our company in which doors have been opened. Lacks has always had a culture where we’ve supported our employees and helped them advance within the company.”
One of Lacks’ main core values is family: “We support each other — here we are family first and foremost.”
“It’s about family, we have each other’s backs by supporting each other through the ups and downs. We not only have our family at home, but we also have our extended family at work, the Lacks family. Every day we do our best — for our children, our community, and the customers that come in and shop with us,” she said. “It’s important to us that we make the world around us better, healthier, and filled with happier people. This type of atmosphere benefits all of us.”
Lacks gives back by advocating for issues that heavily impact the communities they serve. That includes support of the Boys & Girls Clubs, local Food Banks, the American Cancer Society, diabetes foundations, holding academic chairs at UTRGV, and underwriting STEM programs. Everything that matters to people in their circle matters to the Lacks leadership team.
“We’re committed to enriching our communities by giving back, supporting fundraising events and working together with organizations that are helping people in need. And we have fun! We do things that other companies don’t do to celebrate who we are,” said Karr.
Every year Lacks celebrates their employees for their outstanding performance by giving away recognition awards at a company meeting. During the gathering, individual team members are recognized for their efforts during the previous year. It’s a time to come together to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s hard work and dedication to Lacks.
“We have ‘All-Stars’ and we award the biggest loser, who is a person who lost the most weight that year,” said Aaronson. “It’s just a chance for all of us to be together and honor all the people who were successful the prior year— It’s my favorite event that we have on an annual basis and it’s fun to see how many people are connected by our business.”
It’s easy to tell that the staff at Lacks don’t view their employment as “just a job,” because of the connectedness they find by spending time together outside of work. Aaronson says one of his fondest memories of the company event was enjoying a “Pig-nic” together with an award winning pig.
“We closed all the stores, had a picnic, and everyone in the company was there, plus their families,” said Aaronson. “We set up a carnival for everybody and had a talent show. So we spent the day just having fun together–It was wonderful.”
While enjoying fellowship is important for the Lacks team, this year’s ceremony was interrupted by the pandemic. Aaronson says the company had never endured anything like it. And although COVID-19 took the company by surprise, problem solving and maintaining composure was something Lacks quickly adopted. Lacks prioritized their employees’ health and shut down for six weeks in spite of being deemed an essential business.
“We didn’t want to take a chance of having our stores being a place where people could get COVID-19,” Aaronson said. “Even though that didn’t allow us to sell anywhere near what we needed to sell in order to cover all of our expenses, we just took the loss so we could make certain we weren’t spreading the disease.”
But like gold after being refined by fire, Lacks emerged stronger after meeting the challenge the pandemic presented.
“What was amazing about this is we had to change so much of our procedures — everybody had to do things differently,” Aaronson said. “But they all pulled together to help each other. I’m amazed at what happened. We made our company better.”
According to both Aaronson and Karr, people continued shopping at Lacks because consultants make their best effort to serve each customer personally, honestly, and fairly. Shoppers enjoy the consultants’ availability and the incredible store selection. With promises kept for deliveries and the highest quality furniture in the Valley, Lacks customers never stopped trusting their shopping experience.
Seth Aaronson, Chief Marketing Officer and son of the current CEO, wants to keep the company — and his family’s — legacy continually moving forward.
“My vision is to continue to hold on to our core values of being family-oriented, and continue to push the style and the look and feel of our stores to the forefront, so that we are the best furniture store in our market — and we are the place that offers the best service for our customers,” he said.
As a lasting and recognized Valley household name, Lacks promises to continue to put their community first.
“We feel we have the ability to understand our customers better than a lot of our competitors because we are local — unlike some of the national competition,” Seth Aaronson said. “That allows us to really offer a more tailored experience. That’s more in line with our customers because we are a part of the community.”