Living in Denver as a young man, James Easterly found himself working as manager in the Safeway grocery store chain. His dream was to become an independent business owner and be his own boss. When he made the move back to his hometown of Lebanon, Virginia, his practice of making small stock investments had provided him with a total of $500. That amount of money during the Great Depression was enough to start that business he dreamed of; and thus, in 1935, Lebanon Furniture was founded.
The Great Depression was a time when neighbors helped neighbors and communities were closely knit. This characterized Lebanon, VA and James Easterly – now Senior – proved this to be true numerous times. He would extend credit to those in the community who, for example, may be ill and out of work and had an appliance break or discontinue functioning. Not only creating a loyal customer base, James Senior served as the town mayor for 25 years. He was elected on his last term not by running; however, by the landslide of write-in votes from the community members who respected him tremendously and had great confidence in his abilities. This sort of personal integrity established the framework for, now in it’s third generation, Easterly Coleman Furniture Company.
As a young boy, James Easterly, Junior spent much of his time helping his family in the store. Whether it be sweeping, dusting off tables and chairs, or providing a welcoming, cheery smile for patrons, his was a well-known face of the Easterly Coleman brand. As he grew older, he worked on the sales floor, and during and after high school, he was presented with more responsibilities. He earned his degree from The National Business College in Roanoke (now National College with multi-state campuses) and thus was presented a managerial role working with his father until James Senior’s retirement in 1964. His wife, Lorene, a graduate of Radford University with a degree in home economics, joined him at Lebanon Furniture in 1970, after remaining home with daughters Judy and Susan while they were young, then teaching for a time, both in Lebanon and Castlewood.
Under Jim and Lorene’s direction, Lebanon Furniture became successful enough to attract the interest of Heilig-Meyers, a notable and successful chain at the time, but Jim had no interest in selling the business. Today, Susan credits her mother as her inspiration for introducing the high-end lines to the business, as well as being the catalyst for the move into design work. Easterly Coleman customers still remember “buying everything from Jim and Lorene”; some recall Lorene having come to their homes to help them with design.
The Seeds of Easterly Coleman
Susan went on to attend the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond, where she received degrees in marketing and finance. Her graduate work in design was completed at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, then ranked within the top five design schools in the country. The equivalent degree today is a Master of Science in Interior Architecture. When Susan and husband Tim Coleman decided they wanted to introduce an exclusively high-end home furnishings and interior design business to the Lebanon community, Jim and Lorene’s decision not to sell the business proved helpful to them. Retaining the moderately-priced lines at Lebanon Furniture, Jim and Lorene gave Susan and Tim the higher-end lines and the associated customers, along with the space to start their business: the Lebanon Furniture warehouse on Main Street.
Full Circle Growth
Under Susan and Tim’s direction, Easterly Coleman grew into a highly successful business. Easterly Coleman’s umbrella ultimately expanded to include the business her grandfather established, Lebanon Furniture Company. From first-time purchasers to high-fashion custom design, Easterly Coleman stands ready to meet the needs of all of its customers.