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Original ownership at longtime Gainesville furniture store changes after nearly 80 years
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Work continues Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at Martin Furniture Company in downtown Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Businesses have come and gone over the decades in downtown Gainesville, but the Martin family name has remained — and still will, despite a recent ownership change.

“We want our little girls to grow up in a town where Martin Furniture still exists,” said Brian Bailey, who, along with wife Savannah, took over as owners Wednesday, March 1. “One of the easiest decisions (in taking over the store) was it’s going to stay Martin Furniture.”

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Ben and Courtney Martin are leaving the Martin Furniture and Design business. The new owners are planning on keeping the name and tradition of the longtime downtown Gainesville family business. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Martin family had owned and operated Martin Furniture and Design at 121 Bradford St. NW since 1945.

“I had a good run, but it has been very important to me that (this business) isn’t just my legacy,” said Ben Martin, who owned the business with his mother Anne Martin.

Family is “what I want to be remembered for,” he said in an interview last week.

Clifford Martin, who died in 2006, founded Martin-Johnson Furniture with a business partner, and about five years into the business, Clifford and his father bought the business and renamed it Martin Furniture.

Clifford’s brother Johnny also joined. Ben Martin, Clifford’s son, started working at the store in 1981.

“I worked because it was mandatory,” Martin said, drawing a laugh from his mother. “One of the (employees) had a back injury and I didn’t have a choice — I had to come to work.

“But,” he paused, “this is all that I know.”

When Ben Martin began at the store, seven other furniture businesses were in the area.

“We were the only ones crazy enough to stay in (business),” Martin said.

Again, a laugh from mom.

“The business started evolving quickly 20 years ago, when I got my wife Courtney involved,” said Ben Martin, referring to the design aspect of the business. “Essentially, my business model was to stay the heck out of their way. You can see I’m not God’s gift to fashion, but they are.

“The things we’re doing now with lamps and pillows, it’s their doing.”

Anne added, “When Clifford started it, (the business) had stoves, refrigerators, lawn furniture until Walmart came. They put down carpet. They could do all that, but it was on a small basis.”

Today, “it is kind of a unique, old-town family operation,” Ben Martin said. “We’re kind of a dying breed.”

The Baileys said that when they “heard that the Martins were looking to retire, we knew we needed to preserve the business,” Brian Bailey said.

“We’ve seen many long-standing local businesses close” in recent years, he said.

Ben Martin said the Martins approached the family in 2022 about the business’ future.

“We just started talking, and it got a little more serious and more serious, and things started falling into place,” he said. “We have finally gotten to this point.”

“I’m happy for Ben,” Anne Martin said of the transition. “It’s a big job. It’s a lot bigger than it was with my husband (Clifford).”

The Baileys might be new to downtown Gainesville, but they’re not new to furniture.

They own and operate Consign & Design Interiors at 5556 Atlanta Highway, Flowery Branch.

“Since we started, we have been committed to making every customer feel valued and welcomed in our stores,” Bailey said in a press release about the Martin purchase.

“We believe in making the shopping experience fun and social, and we strive to offer products and brands that suit every buying need and budget. Our goal is to bring this kind of shopping experience to as many people as possible, so expanding just makes sense.”

Keeping the name on the sign isn’t the extent of preserving the store’s history.

Savannah Bailey said she would like to form a sort of gallery of photographs along a store wall.

Otherwise, “we’ll do a resurfacing inside and out, having the whole interior painted and the exterior painted and refurbished,” Brian Bailey said in an interview with The Times.

Still, “it’s going to be the same staff, the same (product) lines,” Savannah Bailey said. “We’ll be bringing in some other (furniture) lines we carry now.” 

For the customer, however, “it will be the same shopping experience they’ve always loved,” her husband said.

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Martin Furniture has been business in downtown Gainesville since 1945 in the same historic building in which it resides today. The building was one of the few that survived the tornado of 1936. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Martin Furniture Company owner Anne Martin and new owner Brian Bailey chat Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, inside the longtime downtown Gainesville business. Bailey and wife Savannah will be the new owners of the furniture store in early March. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Martin Furniture Company has been in Gainesville since 1945 in the same location on Bradford Street just off the square. The Martin family is now leaving the business, but the new owners are planning to keep the tradition and the name the same. - photo by Scott Rogers