Store Sweet Store
Trey Brunson doesn’t get one foot in the door at Nick’s noon soul food buffet before the hand shaking begins. Captain Fenwig, who runs the local ship harbor, says hello. Ben, the bank president; Larry and Jay, the real estate guys; and Mike, the little league coach, all greet him and ask after his parents. By the time Brunson has sat down and had two deep fried pork chops, he has talked to more than 10 people he’s known nearly all his life and has even heard opinions about his new showroom, H&H Lifestyles, which just opened in a nearby shopping center.
“There are 75,000 people in this county,” Brunson said of his hometown and retail market, Brunswick, Ga., “but it’s still a small town. Everybody knows everybody’s business.”
The folks in Brunswick have had plenty of time to get the scoop on Brunson’s business. It’s been in operation since the 1930s, when Brunson’s grandfather bought a gas station called H&H Service Store. As the community evolved, H&H did too, expanding to sell appliances and TVs in the post-war years, and then expanding again to sell furniture in the 1960s. Brunson’s parents, Bill and Sandra, spent over thirty years working the retail grind, becoming the experts many local residents have trusted for washing machines, couches, beds, televisions and full kitchens. Brunson, a tall, fair, ready-to-laugh thirty-something and his younger sister Laurie Watson, a quiet but striking redhead with fierce organizational skills, have ascended to take over the business during the last two years. But instead of a low-key stock transfer or quiet succession plan, the family has taken this next-chapter opportunity to reimagine the entire operation, and that process has resulted in one of the most unique consumer electronics showrooms in North America.