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• May 19, 2020

Return to Backbone of the Economy

"It goes way beyond business," they said of employees that are like family.

Circle Furniture in Massachusetts is the epitome of a family-owned, local business.

Started in 1952 by owners Richard and Harold Tubman's grandfather Isadore, Circle Furniture has grown from one small store in Cambridge to six locations and almost 50 employees in the past seven decades but has never lost its ties to the community.

The majority of the TD Bank Small Business customer's furniture is made locally in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, and they consistently donate and hold events for nonprofits in the area.

The two brothers started working with their parents in the 1970's, until they were handed the reigns to Circle in the 1980s. Richard and Harold have been running it ever since. Richard's wife Peggy even runs merchandising.

"The irony is January 2020 was our best January ever. February 2020 was our best February ever. Same goes for the first 10 days of March," Richard said. "Things were tracking really well and then it just, all of a sudden, boom, everything stopped."

Everything stopped because of COVID-19. Economic shutdowns and stay-at-home mandates have disrupted so many small businesses across the country in attempts to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

"Occasionally you have a snow storm and you might have a zero-revenue day," Richard added. "But this, we've never seen anything like this. So, it's pretty shocking."

In addition to "plummeting" declines in revenue, Circle Furniture was forced to furlough most of its staff, Richard said.

But the Circle Furniture staff is like family, so the duo have been in constant contact so that they know they are supported during these trying times.

"People are feeling isolated, alone. We have employees that live by themselves. They don't know what's next," Harold said. "We've also always taken a philosophy to support the towns we're in and give back to a broad range of community organizations. So, I feel for those organizations right now too, because small businesses and residents don't have the money to support them at this time."

'A fortunate relationship'

With their employees' wellbeing in mind, along with that of the local vendors and nonprofits they serve, Circle Furniture worked with TD Bank on a crucial PPP loan, administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Having been a TD Bank customer for almost 10 years, working with the Bank in the past on mortgages for some of their retail properties, Harold and Richard knew TD would come through when they needed them most.

"We are part of this contemporary design group with other stores, where we share financial information, best practices and even marketing ideas," Richard said. "What struck me from our meetings recently is how fortunate we are to have a relationship with TD. Some people with small banks and large banks were not successful in getting this loan."

In fact, the brothers said that TD Business Relationship Manager Kari Reinking was in constant contact with them, sharing whatever information she had during this very complicated process.

"We got a call at 10:30 p.m. the night before we got approved," Harold said. "I said, 'It's late for a banker to be working.' They said, 'Our whole team is working 24/7 to talk to customers and get these loans approved.'"

"The best part of my job has always been working with great people like Harold and Richard, and companies like Circle Furniture," Kari added. "Small businesses like these are critical to our communities, not just in providing jobs and services, but also for community support. Knowing how important this assistance is for the businesses and their workers makes it very easy to stay motivated and energized."

Now, that the funds are in place, Circle Furniture is looking forward to getting their delivery, management and sales staff back to work where they belong.

They plan to stagger openings in bringing back employees, to make sure they comply with certain SBA regulations, so that some of the funding can be forgiven.

They also will continue to be in touch with their New England vendors, some of which have shut down.

"It goes way beyond business," Richard said. "We know all our employees, our vendors, we know their families and I think it's important that we keep them involved and informed."

Harold said in the end, it's all about family within and outside the business.

"I'm fortunate. I'm still healthy, most of my family is still healthy, but I miss them," he said. "A few times a week, I'll usually drive by the house my grandkids live at and they give me a wave from their deck. On a really nice day, they might stay on the deck and I'm out back with a dog. We miss all those things. And as far as community, I have a lot of friends in the neighborhood who have asked how they can help. And I said to one of them, 'Buy furniture.' And he did. So, it's a beautiful thing."

Return to Backbone of the Economy

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