By DENNIS D. CRUZ
Since 1968 Al’s Furniture has been a staple in the 209. A one-time schoolhouse “way out McHenry Avenue” in Modesto, Al Walker transformed it into the leading destination for people in the Central Valley for their furniture and home décor needs.
Walker was a pharmacist but wanted more. He and his wife decided to open an antique store and gave it the name Al’s Antique Store. When the store opened he would get the antiques and mark up the price very little, giving the customers a bargain of a deal. However, in a relatively short amount of time, the antique store was struggling and Walker went to Fresno, where his cousin had an unfinished furniture store. Walker brought back a small truck load of furniture and before long, Al’s Antique Store turned into Al’s Furniture. It was one of very few unfinished furniture stores in the area at that time.
Al’s son Rick Walker left his job at Campbell’s Soup to help his dad with the store. Rick had an instant impact and the two went to the bank and got a loan to add a metal building on the property. The two also added water beds in the early 1970s to expand the offerings. They had “The Waterworks,” an outlet that showcased waterbeds and was an instant success. With the success in the business they brought in John Perry as a delivery driver and shortly after Dan Pedersen came on board. Today, Perry and Pedersen are still with the company. Perry is the lead buyer and Pedersen serves as general manager at the store.
“I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and learned fast how business worked. When you work here, you are family. That’s why everybody here has the longevity,” said Pedersen. “I think that is what makes Al’s Furniture a success. Not only do we treat our employees like family but also our customers. We have had generations of returning customers and it is great to see them, as well as new customers come through the doors.”
Today Al’s Furniture has approximately 30 employees.
Rick and his wife Kerry purchased a building down the street from Al’s Furniture for their warehouse and named it Al’s Distribution Center. The building serves as the company’s location for receiving, repairs and customer pickup to this day. Kerry is still active with the company as well, as she is co-owner along with Rick.
Al’s Furniture prides itself on the quality of its furniture and décor selling items from such top brands as Lane, Best Manufacturing, Aspen, Flexsteel and Serta. From recliners, to chair lifts, sofas, and love seats, or end tables to glass cabinets Al’s Furniture continues to be the Central Valley’s top destination for quality décor. Outside in the back of the store there is a patio garden area.
On a stone at the business is a plaque with a statement from Al Walker that says: ‘I’d Rather Explain The Price Once Than Apologize For The Quality Forever.’ For five decades the folks at Al’s have lived by that creed and stand by their work and their products.
“It was important to Mr. Walker to have the best quality for his customers,” Pedersen said.
In celebration of the milestone achievement, celebrating a half-century in business, this past spring Al’s Furniture gave away seven seven-piece sets of furniture to customers. They held a raffle event that provided complete bedroom sets for the lucky winners.
Over the years, the business has been active in the community as they have been known to sponsor
youth sports programs, helping charities and other fundraisers.
“We do these things, because without the community support, we would not be here for 50-plus years. So having that said, we want to thank everyone in the 209 for supporting us in one way or another,” Pedersen said.