Stell Furniture always goes the extra mile

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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LULING — For David Stell Sr., getting diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer in January 2021 was only the beginning of a turbulent year. Hurricane Ida blew through the River Parishes less than nine months later, severely damaging both locations of his family business, but in the midst of the wreckage emerged a new chapter in Stell Furniture Co.-Luling Inc.’s rich history.

In his father’s time of need, David Stell Jr. left his job as a project controls specialist at Marathon’s Garyville Refinery to take the helm of Stell Furniture Co.

“It means everything,” David Sr. said. “I’ve worked really hard to build a reputation and a business over almost 40 years. If it weren’t for him coming in, I probably would have shut down after the storm, sold the property and been done with it. Now I have decided to come back into the community, and we are rebuilding it bigger and better than ever.”

The business is currently operating out of 13117 Highway 90 in Boutte, offering the community furniture, mattresses and appliances. The Stell Furniture building on Paul Maillard in Luling will re-open within the next six months, according to David Jr. The reconstruction took a big step forward as a new slab was poured on January 31.

The Paul Maillard location has served the community for decades, while Stell’s Premium Bedding opened in Boutte in July 2021, shortly before Hurricane Ida. However, Stell Furniture’s roots trace back much further. The family business began in 1947 with David Sr.’s grandfather, Herbert Wainwright Stell, as a collection of white goods sold out of the back of a station wagon.

After Herbert’s passing, his wife and son decided to incorporate furniture into the business. The first Stell furniture and appliance store opened on East 18th and River Road in Reserve in 1966. In the 1980s, a second location opened on the West Bank of St. Charles Parish.

David Sr. and his brother helped out at the store from the time they were children, eventually taking the reins after their father passed away. In the early 2000s, they split the business, with David keeping the Luling location and rebranding as Stell Furniture Co.-Luling Inc. Over time, the business built a reputation of supplying quality furniture and appliances with top-notch service in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. James and surrounding parishes.

David Jr. remembers coming into the store during the summer from the time he was 7 or 8 years old to help with sweeping the floors, dusting and setting up furniture. However, he never fully stepped into the business until his father became ill in 2021.

Since then, he’s gained a newfound understanding of what Stell Furniture represents not only to his family, but to the community at large.

“At that point, I realized how much we meant to those around us. We do our own in-house financing here. We still collect our own payments. There are a lot of people in the area who have been dealing with my dad for 30 years, and he’s helped put appliances and mattresses in people’s houses when they may not have been approved by other places,” David Jr. said. “When I came in, they were all asking what the plan was because they were nervous my dad was going to have to close down. I felt a need to take over from that perspective, too, to keep his legacy going in the area and continue to help out the community.”

After coming in full-time in May 2021, David Jr. moved forward with the opening of a second location, Stell’s Premium Bedding, in July 2021. Hurricane Ida made landfall only six weeks later, closing the bedding store for a year-and-a-half before it finally reopened in 2022.

The Paul Maillard building was also devastated as winds tore off most of the roof and destroyed all of the furniture on the showroom floor. Only a few file cabinets were able to be salvaged inside the main building, but the warehouse right behind the store was relatively unscathed.

In the weeks that followed Ida, David Jr. met hurricane survivors from across the community at the warehouse and helped load mattresses in the backs of trucks.

“Over the last 18 months, we have tried to help the community in meeting their needs the best we can while also working with the parish and insurance to get our building back together,” David Jr. said. “It shows that we have been here 30 years, and we are here to stay.”

David Sr. said the business stands out as one of the few still offering free delivery and set up.

“We always go the extra mile for our customers without a charge or a fee. It’s always been a family-oriented business with personal service. You don’t get much of that anymore,” David Sr. said. “We’ve had a business model from day one, and we’ve stuck to it no matter how hard times got.”

Stell Furniture’s current business hours at 13117 Highway 90 in Boutte are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The store can be reached at 985-785-6091.