East Texas Family Lives American Dream Through Business

"Starting a business of your own is a lot of hard work."

Hard work for forty years has paid off for Wilkie Blake. The Blake name is well known in East Texas, for furniture. But he says it all started not with a big showroom, but a small truck.

"We'd have a truckload of living room suits come in on friday and maybe a couple of bedroom suits, and they'd be gone in just a day or two, and we couldn't get our store open because people were buying."

It was the Sixties... And after Blake got the first store in Longview up and running, his sister and brother in law wanted in.

"That's how we started Blake Furniture, by employing my family."

In most of the stores, family works side by side.

Son, Bart: "They don't understand how you can do that, but it's real easy."

Bart says everyone works well because everyone knows their success is tied to what is sold. Wilkie says the business believes in profit sharing.

"If the store doesn't make money they don't make money. It makes it easier for me then, I don't have to breathe down their neck."

He also says starting a new business, whether in the 1960s or 2002, is not a 9 to 5 job... And it's very expensive.

"Have the inititive to work hard, and make sure they have plenty of working capital."

Bart says, "If you make profits the first year, or a couple of years down the road, don't feel like you can go spend that money. You need to use that money to put back in your business and constantly improve your business."

To keep Blake Furniture improving... they've chosen to stop expanding.  It was getting a little too much.

"We had kind of created a monster there.  Instead, we're looking at newer buildings and bigger showrooms." Bart says.

The Blake family has seen success Wilkie never imagined.

"I started out wanting one or two stores and now have nine locations, and now if I start talking about it, I get emotional,"  he says.