Veteran leadership succession team announced but the CEO post remains open
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Jim Heinitz, CEO of Furniture Mart USA, retired from the post Jan. 1, after a dozen years in the position, where he helped shepherd the company through an aggressive growth phase.
He’ll continue to serve on the retailer’s board. A new CEO has not been named, and there are no immediate plans to do so, the company said.
Heinitz joined the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based company as sales manager in 2004 after a long coaching career and was promoted to CEO in 2008, but he knew close friend and Furniture Mart founder and Chairman Bill Hinks long before then.
The two were once business partners at a nearby mobile home business, and it was that surplus of mobile home furniture that was used to open Hinks’ first Unclaimed Freight Furniture store on West. 12th Street in Sioux Falls more than 40 years ago.
Today, the company is one of the nation’s largest home furnishings retailers with more than 34 stores under four divisions — Furniture Mart, Ashley HomeStore, Unclaimed Freight and Carpet One — operating in 34 communities across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
The succeeding leadership team announced prior to Heinitz’s retirement includes:
Bill Hinks, who continues as chairman is recognized as an industry leader, having grown Furniture Mart USA from a single store in the 1970s to the nation’s 35th largest furniture retailer with 1,100 employees in six states, according to a release.
Hinks is a two-time recipient of the Ashley HomeStore Chairman’s Award and a member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame.
Gordy Wallenstein, president, has been with Furniture Mart for 41 years. He evaluates inventory levels, productivity, and selects showroom inventory with the buying team. He’s responsible for researching market trends, current fashions, and potential suppliers.
Tami Wallenstein, executive vice president, is the lead buyer for accessories. She also works with accounting, human resources, and philanthropic requests. Tami has been with the company for 35 years.
Cory Price, president of strategic planning and company development, brings together Furniture Mart USA’s sales and marketing efforts, leading and enhancing the customer experience teams. He has also served as corporate pilot for the past 10 years.
And Troy Eichmann, chief operating officer, is responsible for company operations and strategic operational direction. He oversees the delivery process, supply chain management, operations of the distribution centers, and customer delivery. Before joining the retailer, Eichmann held leadership positions with Fortune 100 companies including Delta Air Lines and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
In a release, Heinitz noted how he and Hinks built a friendship through athletics and then a business relationship when Hinks started University Homes in the 1970s.
“Bill had the entrepreneurial instinct and ambition to take it to the next level when he opened the first Unclaimed Freight Furniture store in 1977,” he said. “It has been a privilege to witness that success over these many years.”
Prior to becoming CEO, Heinitz had a 30+ year coaching career and retired as the winningest football coach in school history at Augustana University.
“I have been blessed to work with some great people through the years,” Heinitz said. “Retail in general, and the furniture industry in particular, has been put to the test this year. We are proving that strong relationships and a commitment to customer service can help you not only overcome these challenges but actually grow and thrive during unprecedented times.”
Hinks called Heinitz “a winner — in athletics, in retail, and in life.
“His common sense, people skills, and competitive nature helped drive our growth and success over the past decade,” Hinks said. “Sales increased by 133% with the addition of 20 new stores during Jim’s time as CEO. He has been our quarterback during a pivotal point in our company’s history.”
Still, Hinks said he’s “delighted with the strength and experience” of the leadership team that remains in place, “and confident that not only will we continue to grow but we will continue to provide great value and service to our customers at the same time.”
The company opened its 31st Ashley HomeStore Dec. 29, a 100,000-square-foot store in College Square Mall in Cedar Falls, Iowa, It’s the retailer’s ninth Ashley location in the state. Renovation of the former Younkers department store included a 15,000 square foot expansion of the retail space. A grand opening event is slated for early February.
The company also is it is “doubling-down on its commitment to customer service,” with a 275,000-square-foot expansion of its corporate headquarters and distribution center in Sioux Falls. Excavation is underway and construction is slated to begin in spring 2021.
When completed, the more than 600,000-square-foot facility will be one of the largest freestanding buildings in South Dakota, the company said. Also, inside its headquarters, Furniture Mart USA recently installed an additional 55 workstations which more than doubled the size of its customer service operation.