ELKO – Jeannie Gillins remembers sweeping the floor of her parent’s furniture store as a child, and now, after more than 45 years of her and husband Ed’s managing and owning Bodily’s Furniture, she will soon sweep the furniture store for the last time.
The Gillinses recently announced plans to retire, and the store’s last day open under their ownership is Aug. 26.
“Forty-five years of six days a week is enough,” Ed says, and Jeannie chimes in: “We’re tired.”
The couple began co-managing Jeannie’s parents’ furniture business in 1973 and later became the fifth generation of owners. The store originated as the Stinson-Berger Furniture Co. before Jeannie’s family — the Bodily family, operating as C.B. Brown Co. — purchased it in 1963. The name changed to Bodily’s Furniture in 1967.
“I was born into it. I had to do it,” Jeannie says with a smile, adding that Ed married in. “He got a whim one day to ask my dad for a job.”
“Forty-seven years later … ” Ed says.
Generations of furniture sales and community involvement led to relationships with customers and employees akin to family that the couple says they will miss.
“The people. It’s just … .” Jeannie says, eyes filling with tears as she stands in the nearly empty 10,000-square-foot building Aug. 7. “People are great.”
Loyal customer Susie Sandoz has known the Gillinses for about 35 years. She describes what she likes about shopping at Bodily’s furniture.
“The excellent customer service and smiling faces,” Sandoz says. “Either one or both of them was always there. It was like a family. They’re like family to me.”
Over the years, Sandoz purchased flooring, window treatments, a dining set, bar stools and beds from Bodily’s. Her favorite piece, she says, is a leather couch she purchased for her Spring Creek home.
“It’s still beautiful,” she says.
Owning the business has been about more than helping shoppers find the right furniture. The couple lived their philosophy of shopping locally, supporting the community and attending Elko events.
“For the community, it has been amazing because they are always a part of anything downtown,” Sandoz says, “and they’ve contributed to many school functions and community functions.”
The store location on Commercial Street, where it has been since 1951, helped keep the Gillinses central to the community.
“It really was the center and heart of the town,” says longtime friend and Elko historian Jan Petersen. “The businesses that have been there over the years have always been general goods, furniture and possibly a few grocers along the way.”
Jeannie recalls how residents would take shelter in the shade of the store’s blue awnings on Commercial Street on parade days of years past then go into the store for relief from the heat.
“We’ve watched families grow up in front of the store,” Jeannie says. “They congregate around here.”
Two nonfurniture-related attractions also drew residents inside the store. Olive, the French bulldog and pug mix, has been a store fixture as much as the arrays of couches, wall hangings and bedroom suites.
“We have people who come in just to see the dog,” Jeannie says.
Others want to see the alleged ghost, who some say dwells in the basement. Petersen says local lore dictates that the ghost is the spirit of a second-hand store owner, who had worked next door to the furniture store and was slain. A bag of diamonds that the pawn shop-type salesman owned went missing, and its whereabouts remains one of Elko’s enduring mysteries.
“Can we go down and see?” Jeannie says people would ask, and she would let them go look, although Jeannie says she never saw the ghost herself.
No ghost story could prevent Petersen from shopping at Bodily’s Furniture, however. Standing in her kitchen, she looks around and says everything in it came from that store. She says her favorite piece of furniture from the store is a well-worn, dark-wood coffee table around which her children learned to walk.
“My furniture is early modern and late Bodily,” she says.
Once a customer found the right piece of furniture, one of the Bodily’s Furniture’s delivery trucks would motor out to the destination. Sandoz complemented the store’s delivery service, saying, “Their delivery people were amazing. Friendly, careful.”
She might be referring to delivery person and warehouseman Moises Albarran, who worked at Bodily’s Furniture for 36 years before retiring. The Gillinses watched his children grow up, and he met their grandchildren. Sons Danny and Scott Gillins also worked for their parents, sweeping floors, like their mother did, and learning the secrets of how to maneuver large furniture through tiny doors. Other longtime employees include bookkeepers who stayed onboard for 19 and 13 years.
Judy O’Dell, the bookkeeper for the past year and a half, is a relative newcomer to the business, but already recognizes the Gillinses’ value as employers.
“They are awesome, awesome people to work for,” O’Dell says. “They make you feel like family, not so much of an employee, just a member of the family.”
The feeling is mutual — for customers and employees alike.
“We’d like to thank our customers we’ve had. I’d like to thank them for their loyalty and friendship over the years,” Ed says. “We appreciate all our long-term employees for their loyalty, hard work and good work ethic. They’re as much a part of our success — or more — than Jeannie and I are.”
In their retirement, the Gillinses plan to stay in the Elko community, with stints away for worldwide travel. Ed says he looks forward to having more time for fishing and Jeannie for quilting.
“It’s the end of a chapter,” Petersen says. “The business and heritage and traditions of shop Elko will continue on and thrive.”
The business, including the name, Commercial Street building and warehouse, has been purchased and is expected to reopen under new ownership in early September.