For some, taking over the family business is something they have dreamt of their whole life; for others, there is little interest in becoming involved. Kristin Franzen, granddaughter of the founder of Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances, was one of the latter. Growing up, Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances was a big part of her life. However, regardless of the family ties and opportunities she had with the company, Kris decided to pursue an engineering degree from the University of North Dakota and take another path …or so she thought.
Years later, Kris and her husband, Charlie, who also is an engineer, reevaluated and decided to move home and take over the business. “We decided that it’s more important to be closer to family than to follow that career path,” Kris explained. Charlie and Kris then moved to Dickinson and took over Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances. As third generation in a business that has been operating for over 80 years, they knew they had big shoes to fill. However, that only motivated them to work hard to expand Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances and help it reach its full potential.
The Franzens’ initial goal was to expand the business. “The storefront was in the same location it had been for over 60 years and it didn’t have a lot of potential to grow just being in that small retail space,” stated Kris. This realization is what sparked the growth and expansion that Fleck’s has been experiencing since then. In 1996, the same year Charlie and Kris bought into the business, Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances worked in conjunction with Dakota Certified Development Corporation (now Dakota Business Lending) and Dakota Community Bank in Dickinson to create a financing package that would allow them to pursue this expansion project.
But this growth was only the beginning. The Franzens decided that the only way they could continue to grow would be to expand their market to a different area. That is when an opportunity arose in the Bismarck/Mandan area and Fleck’s decided to utilize the 504 loan program again in 2001. This time, they purchased and renovated a building in Bismarck in order to open a storefront there. “Bismarck was a good fit for us,” Kris added. “We were able expand the retail location and take on some rental properties in the upper floors and that gave us additional income there as well.”
Just last year, as business continued to thrive, Fleck’s was in need of yet another expansion. “Our current warehouse facility [in Bismarck] was inadequate for the volume of business that we could do,” Kris explained. That is where their third 504 loan came in. With those funds, Charlie and Kris, along with their son Jason who manages the Bismarck store, were able to find some land in Mandan and build a new building on the property for their warehouse and an expanded appliance service shop for the Bismarck/Mandan area.
Having two retail locations one hundred miles apart brought the challenge of contrasting markets.
“There are a lot of personal connections in the Dickinson community and the rural areas around...many of our customers have been with us for decades. In the Bismarck community, we were kind of the new kid on the block…it takes a while to build those relationships with people,” explained Kris.
Moving forward with great strides, however, Fleck’s has developed, fostered, and maintained many relationships that have helped their Bismarck location continue to expand and grow.
Throughout their 20+ years of owning the business, Charlie and Kris have worked hard to continue to improve and grow the family business for generations to come.
“Our goal was to grow the business so we could support our families and be successful in both communities,” Kris shared. “If you look at the numbers, I believe that has happened. We’ve grown tremendously in the 20 years since we’ve owned the business.”
Kris’ favorite part about the business is seeing the impact that it can have on the community. “I am proud of the great staff that works with us, the customer service we provide, and the products we can offer, all while still being competitive with big box stores, and helping people grow into the homes that they want and are dreaming of with appliances, furniture, and flooring.”
But it isn’t just the products and services that the Franzens are proud of. Their son also got involved in the business almost 10 years ago and currently runs the Bismarck operation, making Fleck’s a fourth-generation business. “There really are not that many family stores that sell appliances,” pointed out Kris. “The industry has shifted to bigger ‘box store type’ operations."
"To be family-owned and in a position with a younger generation in their 30’s poised to take that over…that doesn’t happen very often and that’s something we’re proud of.”
Over the years, Fleck’s Furniture and Appliances has continued to expand their product lines, including home appliances, furniture, floor covering, and other home furnishings. In addition, they provide high-quality sales assistance, delivery and installation services, and post-sale and warranty customer service. Fleck’s strives to create a personal and pain free experience for all of their customers.
“The biggest thing that makes us different from most appliance and home furnishing stores is our relationship with our customers and our commitment to them.”