Fifty years of furniture UC businessman tells of days gone by

Fifty years, in anyone’s book, is a long time. Now imagine doing one thing for 50 years and doing it with a smile.

That’s exactly what Leon Klein, owner of Kleon Furniture in Union City, has been doing since the business opened in 1953. The business is celebrating their 50th anniversary this month.

Originally located in Hoboken at the intersection of Eighth and Madison streets, the furniture business moved to 17th Street and Summit Avenue in Union City in 1990 after it became impossible for the small, local business to keep up with the skyrocketing real estate costs in Hoboken.

Klein has been with the business since it was begun by his father in the ’50s, back when he was a “wee nipper,” as Klein referred to the younger version of himself.

Said Klein of the area back then, “There were a lot of immigrants. That was one of the reasons my father chose to come here when he came from Hungary.”

Klein also remembers a time when the embroidery industry was king in Union City and to a lesser degree in Hoboken. Said Klein, “The embroidery industry went away, and that knocked the town down a bit, but now Union City is becoming like Hoboken with all the condominiums.”

According to Klein, an entire bedroom set in 1953 would have cost about $500 “for really top quality.” Said Klein, “Today, that set would probably cost about $1,500. But a brand-new car at that time would cost $1,000. Furniture prices haven’t really increased at the same rate as other things over the years.”

Like most local businesses, Kleon furniture focuses on the total satisfaction of any given customer. “Our clientele is local, basically,” said Klein. “But we also get a lot of people from Pennsylvania and South Jersey.” Continued Klein, “Many of our customers are the grandkids of people that used to come in years past. I think our success has been that we make sure the customer is completely satisfied. If they are satisfied, they tell their friends and family about it and those people come in. It’s really a simple thing, actually. We believe in doing business the old-fashioned way.”

In fact, during a recent visit, The Reporter saw a customer who had ordered a set of chairs from the business. His wife decided she didn’t want them. With the flick of a pen and the tearing of a business check, Klein gave the customer his deposit back, no questions asked. He knows the customer will be back.

Though the business has only been in Union City for 13 of the 53 years it has existed, Klein has formed a positive vision of Union City. The Paramus resident acknowledges that while Union City and Hudson County may lack the trees and open space of Bergen County, it does possess a sense of “community,” something lacking in the more affluent suburbs. “We’ve had a good experience in Union City,” said Klein. “In the summertime, people socialize much more here than elsewhere. Also, parking for the customers is slightly easier here in Union City than in Hoboken.”

Kleon Furniture has also been involved in helping the community. Said Klein, “We have worked together with him [Union City Mayor Brian Stack] in his fire victims’ assistance fund. If they need mattresses or anything, we’re there to help.”

Union City Mayor Brian Stack founded a fund to aid the victims of the many fires that occur in Union City. People are encouraged to donate money and goods to the fund at any time.

Said Klein, “I think Mayor Stack’s done a lot [for Union City] with the fire victims’ fund, the Urban Development Zone (UEZ), things like that.”

As for the proliferation of the big chain stores (IKEA, Levitz, etc), Klein stated that they haven’t really been a problem. Said Klein, “The big chain stores haven’t really affected us, as our prices are competitive with theirs.” Continued Klein, “You have to establish a relationship with people. They’re [the customer] not talking to a person who couldn’t care less about their problems. Basically, we do business the ‘old- fashioned way.’ I know personally, in my town, I still go to my local hardware store. They know me there and can quickly help me with whatever I need. If you go to Home Depot, you first have to find the right department, then you have to find someone that works there, then you have to hope they know what they’re talking about, which they usually don’t.”


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