Through five locations, five generations and 120 years of service to East Texas, Swann's Furniture & Design has kept the focus on being close to customers.

Its latest location, on Old Jacksonville Highway, company CEO Elam Swann said, "is absolutely in the heart of where we need to be."

That's the paradox of Swann's — as one of the most established companies in Tyler (and the second-oldest furniture store in the state), it's always on the move, growing, bringing in new product lines and never standing still.

"We're customer-driven," Elam Swann said. "We feel like if we listen to our customers and try our best to fulfill their needs, there would always be a place for us."

And since 1895, that place has been Tyler.

"It's been an incredible place for us," Elam Swann said. "There's been a stable economy, through all the years, steady enough to support a furniture store like ours."

Even in the most recent economic downturn, the firm was able to expand.

"There aren't many towns where it would have been considered wise in 2011 to break ground on a new location," he said. "That's a compliment to this city."

It's not just new locations. Swann's Furniture & Design has also regularly added new generations to the company. Franklin Swann, 33, returned to Tyler in 2008, after graduating from Texas Christian University and working in Dallas as a commercial broker.

"It's a family team," said Franklin Swann. "It's rare that family members are able to complement each other like we always have."

His father agrees.

"In a family business, every generation has to bring something new to the table," said 63-year-old Elam Swann. "What Franklin brings is new ideas."



Thomas Elam "T.E." Swann started the business in 1895 in downtown Tyler. It was then called the Swann Furniture & Carpet Company.

In 1920, T.E. Swann was bought out by his cousin, Elam F. Swann, and the store's name changed to Swann Furniture and Undertaking Company.

Elam F. Swann, according to the family, wasn't comfortable with the undertaking side of the business, so he sold that part off.

In 1940, both of Elam's sons, Franklin and Thomas, entered the business. They took on more and more management responsibilities. After Elam's death in 1978, the brothers ran the company.

"In 1974, my dad offered me a job," Elam (III) said. "I had planned to go off to Dallas. But I came to work here, starting on Jan. 1, 1975."

His own son, Franklin, literally grew up in the business — he worked in the company's warehouse after school and during summers.



Much has changed in 120 years, Elam Swann said, but one thing hasn't — the family's approach to the customer. Home d←cor is a very individualized thing, he explained.

"The home is such a personal space," he said. "It's where you go to relax. It's a big deal for us to be allowed in there, and we're honored to be allowed in."

Often, that's very literal. About a third of the company's business involves sending professional designers into a home.

"That's where we can really do our best work," Elam said.

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