Andrew Steinhafel, left, and his father, Mark
Steinhafel in the company's flagship store in the
City of Pewaukee Tuesday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
OF PEWAUKEE - Just like a quality piece of furniture is
handed down through the generations, the growing
Steinhafels business has transferred from the hands of
the original owner, John Emil Steinhafel, to his
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It was the
original Steinhafel’s belief that the children should want
to become part of the family business. And while in 2014
there are six members of the family who have roles in the
business, first they must follow two rules: go to college in
another state where they don’t know your name and have prior
work experience before joining the company.
the fourth generation of Steinhafels took on a new, modern
role. After going to school in Boston, Andrew Steinhafel was
approached about joining the business as the information
technology director after he was married to his wife, who is
also from Milwaukee.
and Steinhafels’ chief operating officer, Mark, felt it was
a great role for his son. Other family members include Gary
Steinhafel, president of Steinhafels, and and Ellen
Steinhafel-Lappe, chief financial officer.
furniture store was opened at 3565 N. Teutonia Ave. in
Milwaukee in 1934 by Arthur Mueller and John E. Steinhafel
and was called Mueller-Steinhafel. When Mueller died in the
early 1940s, Steinhafel bought Mueller’s share of the
business from his widow. In 1959, Steinhafels built a
40,000-square-foot store on 84th Street and Capitol Drive,
according to the company’s website. John’s five children,
Elaine, Jim, Bill, Mary and John, became equal partners,
which Mark Steinhafel noted was exceptional for the time.
The original furniture called
Mueller-Steinhafel was opened in 1934 at
3565 N. Teutonia Ave. in Milwaukee.
business transferred to the third generation, including
Ellen, Gary, Mark, Steve and Tom. Andrew became the fourth
generation and it’s not known if a fifth generation will
eventually take over the business because no one has been
born into that generation yet.
commitment to employees, customers
Steinhafel said Steinhafels’ employees have remain committed
to the company even during the Great Recession and a hiring
and pay freeze that resulted from the economic downturn. Now
that the economy is strengthening, Steinhafels wants to show
its appreciation to its employees by implementing pay raises
to a level they would be at if the recession never happened,
Andrew Steinhafel said.
Founder John Steinhafel’s five
children, Elaine, Jim, Bill, Mary and John,
pictured, became equal partners in the business and
ran it until the third generation took over.
that many employees have a long tenure with the furniture
company. While the company is known as a family-owned
business, it is also run very professionally, which
surprises some people, Mark Steinhafel said.
addition, the company has built a strong brand in the region
that is respected for its quality and customer service.
company grows, Andrew Steinhafel said it strives to provide
a “retail environment that the modern consumer has come to
Steinhafels has diversified its offerings, which in turn
have expanded its footprint. There are 18 Steinhafels
locations in Wisconsin and Illinois with nine of them
full-line locations and nine of them mattress-only.
former American stores were bought by the Steinhafels after
they closed, including the locations in Appleton, Oak Creek
and Madison East. The Appleton location will open Black
Friday and Oak Creek will be open by spring, while Madison
East likely won’t open for another year-and-a-half, Andrew
company wants to continue to grow, he said, but at a
reasonable pace so as not to cause undue risk.
growth is very conservative and measured,” Andrew Steinhafel
Steinhafels decided to produce its own brand of mattresses,
it bought an existing company and has grown it into a part
of the business that generates millions of dollars in
volume, Mark Steinhafel said. The mattresses are not only
available in-store, but are sold commercially to
universities and hotels, as well as to other non-competing
Steinhafels.com has also undergone a transformation under
Andrew Steinhafel’s leadership and is now functions as an