Brett Gulbrandson, left, new owner of Baer’s Furniture of York, Neb., shakes hands with previous owner Pat Eichinger. Photo courtesy of the York News-Times.

YORK, Neb. — Pat Eichinger was looking to retire from retail. Brett Gulbrandson, who had moved away from his hometown and had been working in retail, was ready to move back.

So Eichinger, who had owned and operated Baer’s Furniture here since the early 1980s (not to be confused with the Florida-based Top 100 outfit) sold the company to Gulbrandson, whom he had known for years.

“I’ve been here for 39 years running the store. I started thinking about moving on in my life and retiring. Brett, the new owner, and my son were classmates from kindergarten through high school and graduated together,” Eichinger told Furniture Today. “My son knew Brett was working for a furniture store in Omaha, and he contacted Brett and told him I was considering retiring. Brett was interested in the opportunity. It fell into place from there.”

Gulbrandson was working in Omaha, but he wanted to give his two young daughters the small-town experience he had growing up.

“We wanted the girls to grow up in a small town,” Gulbrandson said. “To have the chance to come back to my hometown where my parents and my brother and his family still are, and give my daughters a similar childhood to what I had, was part of the appeal.”

Plus, the opportunity to lead a store of his own was too good to pass. Much like Eichinger and his family, Gulbrandson plans on making Baer’s a family affair, bringing his wife, Ashley, into the business.

“The opportunity to challenge myself and be my own boss and take the next step in my career was a big aspect,” he said. “My wife loves to decorate and is always changing up our house. For her to be a part of the home décor industry, she was super excited as well. She and I will be doing it together.”

While ownership is new to Gulbrandson, he’s got customer operations leadership experience that he plans to utilize as he grows into the role.

“I was in charge of cashiers, handled escalations we received, managed the team and hiring; everything customer service related. It’s definitely helped,” Gulbrandson said of his experience. “Obviously, in my career, I started out at the bottom of the totem pole and worked my way up. Over the years, I had the experience of being told what to do every day and doing all the basic stuff and grown over the years and taken on more responsibility in terms of the jobs.

“My experience there, where I used to manage a team of 35 staff, having that experience and working with people and having the team will carry over in managing them in being able to assist and provide great customer service.”

Gulbrandson said prior to assuming ownership he shadowed Eichinger for a few months to learn the ins and outs of the store and its methods. Now that Gulbrandson is in charge, Eichinger is staying on for a while to advise, and then he’ll still be local to answer questions.

“I’m committed to being here all the time until the end of January. We’re going to head to Las Vegas Market and show Brett and his wife, Ashley, the ropes and see what they need to see,” Eichinger said.

“At the end of January, I’ll be pretty much out the door. His experience has made the transition a lot smoother. I’ll still be around York, so if Brett needs me, he just needs to call and I’ll be glad to give him a hand.”

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