Top News

Mahone Bay furniture store is happily, and stubbornly, stuck in the past

Abe Younis (left) and his son Yama play on the pool table inside the Abe's Furniture showroom in Mahone Bay on Friday, Jan. 25, 2021. Yama took over the business from Abe decades ago, but Abe can often be spotted hanging around the store.
Abe Younis, left, and his son Yama play on the pool table inside the Abe's Furniture showroom in Mahone Bay on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Yama took over the business from Abe decades ago, but Abe can often be spotted hanging around the store. - Ryan Taplin
MAHONE BAY, N.S. —

It would be going too far to call Abe Younis a liar.

But even Abe, as funny as he is, would have to agree that he sometimes straddles the line between fact and fancy in order to get a laugh.

His son Yama has run Abe’s Furniture in Mahone Bay since Abe retired 26 years ago. Between meeting friends for tea, going back home for breakfast and going to get the mail, Abe, 84, only spends about five hours a day at the store these days.

That left him time to answer questions about the business he started in 1976; for example, what did he do before that?

“I was in Dorchester for 10 years.”

Not even straddling the line there. He did sell Volkswagens at a dealership in Lunenburg before he opened his store.

What appealed to him about the furniture business?

“Nothing. Didn’t know a thing about it. I didn’t know this table went with those chairs, or that mattress went with that box spring, or what went with anything, I was about as stupid as anybody that ever went into a business.”

Abe was born next-door to the building that houses the furniture store, which was pretty tiny in 1976. He and Yama have put on three different additions over the years, and now there’s about 5,000 square feet of display space.

When he opened, there was another furniture store up the street.

“We burnt it down, we couldn’t stand the competition. He was a cousin, we sent him back to Lebanon.”

The first stock at Abe’s Furniture was mattresses from a supplier in Moncton.

“But then we got recliners and chesterfields and whatever else. Never knew anything about anything. We just bluffed our way through, same as when people asked me about the specifications of a Volkswagen.

“We don’t have a cash register or anything like that, so if you bought something and it was $500, we’d put $300 in for the sale and take a hundred each. We hardly took a salary. You’re not recording this, are you?”

Not everything is exactly as it was when the store opened. The walls were painted once. But it’s clean in here, even if there is a pool table on the showroom floor to help father and son pass the time between customers.

“He doesn’t bother anybody when they come in, sometimes he’s setting there in the back, sound asleep.”

Conversations with Yama, 58, are a little more conventional, though his refusal to have anything to do with computers would raise eyebrows at business school.

“I never jumped on the bandwagon. It didn’t enter my mind to computerize, and I was proud that we didn’t have to. Salesmen would say they’d email and I’d say ‘I don’t have email.’ They’d laugh about it and say ‘Oh, yeah, you don’t have a computer,’ so they’d fax me something or call. You can call, still.

“I have salesmen who say if only I had email, they could send me pictures of the different stuff that comes in, but usually they come around later on with the actual samples. Sometimes what you see on the internet is not what you see in real life.”

Occasionally people who don’t know better will call the store and ask Yama to send them a picture of something and he’ll say no. Nicely.

“But they come in with their phone and they snap pictures of stuff. I’m only local, I’m not looking for people to drive from Yarmouth or Halifax, my business is Lunenburg County. I don’t have GPS, we use a map.”

Yama answers those calls on one of the two rotary phones that have been on the wall for more that four decades and still work perfectly. Sometime parents bring kids in to see if they can figure out how to use a rotary phone.

“They poke their finger in the holes, thinking that’s how it works.”

Customers at Abe’s Furniture are locals, and people from away who buy summer homes in Mahone Bay. Mostly they buy beds, about 500 a year, and he’ll deliver for free anywhere in the county. The brands are Canadian, and well known, but the prices don’t seem quite right.

“I got a certain clientele, I can’t sell a sofa over $1,600, so I keep a lot of stuff here from $1,299 to $1,599. If you want the better stuff, there’s better places. My stuff that I sell for $1,399, 10 minutes towards Bridgewater they’re asking about $1,899 for the same thing. It’s a nice-looking store. And they’ve got a computer. Same furniture.”

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories