Family-owned Business of the Year: Steinhafels Inc.

BizTimes Best in Business 2015

Last updated on April 8th, 2021 at 02:48 pm

Steinhafels, which started as a small Milwaukee furniture store in 1934, today has 18 furniture and mattress stores and more than 700 employees. The company is in its third generation of family ownership and is in the middle of a significant expansion.

This summer, Steinhafels began construction of a 104,000-square-foot expansion of its main distribution center at its headquarters complex at I-94 and County Highway F in Pewaukee. That complex currently has 420,000 square feet of space, which encompasses corporate offices, a store and a 240,000-square-foot distribution center.

Because of its rapid growth, Steinhafels has been named the BizTimes Best in Business Family-Owned Business of the Year for 2015.

The distribution center expansion is expected to be complete by next fall. It is the  first of a two-phase project that will eventually result in the addition of 650 employees. The first phase of the distribution center expansion will result in 200 to 250 new jobs.

The second phase of the distribution center project will supplement an additional 130,000 square feet. The timing of that project depends on sales growth and future expansion.

“We wanted to be in a position to have distribution capabilities if an acquisition opportunity presented itself,” said president Gary Steinhafel.

The company took advantage of such an opportunity in 2014 with the acquisition of former American TV & Appliance stores in Oak Creek, Appleton and Madison. Conversion of the Appleton store into a Steinhafels store was completed in late 2014. The Oak Creek store conversion was completed early this year.

“Business (at the Oak Creek store) is slowly growing,” Steinhafel said. “We have not seen any significant cannibalization from our Greenfield and Kenosha stores. It has been almost all new business for us.”

After the first phase of the distribution center expansion is complete next year, work will begin to convert the former American TV store on the east side of Madison, which will replace the Steinhafels store at East Towne Mall.

In Greenfield, a new Steinhafels store will be part of a mixed-use development planned by Cobalt Partners at I-894 and South 84th Street. That new Steinhafels store will replace its store at Layton Avenue and 84th Street. The new store will be about the same size as the current Greenfield store, 58,000 square feet, but it will be on one level instead of two and will have a modern design. The current Greenfield store building was constructed in 1970. The new store will also be highly visible from I-894.

In addition to Gary Steinhafel, the third generation family members who run the company today include: Mark Steinhafel, chief operating officer; Ellen Steinhafel-Lappe, chief financial officer; Steve Steinhafel, general manager of customer service; and Tom Steinhafel, store manager. Fourth generation family member Andrew Steinhafel is director of information technology.

“We make decisions unanimously,” Gary Steinhafel said of the family member owners. “If we move in a direction, we do it because we have unified consent.”

The family members also share financial information with the company’s senior management, not just with each other, Steinhafel said.

“We are a company that is transparent within the organization,” he said. “We share sales and profitability within the senior management team. We manage the business with their advice.”

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Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.