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Minot’s Tollefson’s Furniture going strong for 95 years

Milestone for Tollefson’s Furniture

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Emily Mackner and Brandon Tollefson represent the fourth generation of Tollefson’s who have operated a family furniture business that began in 1925.

After 95 years, four generations and a few different store locations, Tollefson’s Furniture is still going strong. From a single furniture store in Minot purchased in 1925 to today, the Tollefson’s retail group has grown to 22 locations in three states and has more than 200 employees.

Located today at 2100 S. Broadway in Minot is Tollefson’s Carpetland, Tollefson’s Contract Flooring and Slumberland Furniture. The Carpet Garage Flooring Center, also part of the Tollefson’s group, is located at 1500 20th Avenue Southwest.

Ole Tollefson, who grew up in Churchs Ferry and homesteaded in the Sanish area, took a liking to early day Minot. He found himself working at a small used furniture store in a basement location near Main Street, a business he later purchased.

“Dad bought him out for $970,” said Duane Tollefson, 93, with a smile and a laugh.

Tollefson began working at Tollefson’s Furniture alongside his older brother, Orlan, in 1952.

Submitted Photo Taken in the 1920’s, this photograph shows the interior of the Furniture Exchange owned by Ole Tollefson, right. The store would eventually become Tollefson’s Furniture which is currently celebrating 95 years in business.

“That was the start of it,” recalled Tollefson. “In the early days dad would pick up an old coal stove for $10, clean it up and sell it for $20.”

One of Duane Tollefson’s most unusual sales, he says, was to a cat. Darned if he didn’t! As Tollefson tells it, he was at a couple’s home in Sherwood doing some measuring and showing of carpet samples. One of the samples was of gold color shag carpet.

“The cat came and laid down on it. I moved the sample to another part of the house and the cat came again and laid down,” said Tollefson. “That’s the carpet they bought. It was the only time I even sold carpet to a cat!”

After a lengthy run the Tollefson brothers decided to retire from the busines, selling it to Duane Tollefson’s son Mark and Orlan Tollefson’s son Roger.

“In all those year Orlan and I got along so well. No arguments. Mark and Roger had the same kind of relationship Orlan and I did. After we sold them though, they never asked for our advice,” said Tollefson with a broad smile.

Mark and Roger Tollefson stepped aside in 2015. Today Emily Mackner and Brandon and Brent Tollefson carry on the family business. Emily and Brent are the children of Roger Tollefson and Brandon the son of Mark Tollefson. What’s more, there’s the possibility that more descendents will carry on the Tollefson name in the furniture and flooring business.

“We all have a fifth generation that we’re raising right now,” said Emily Mackner. “And there will be absolutely no pressure to join the family business, but we hope it will be around for them. We were all super lucky that our parents didn’t pressure us into joining the business. We really are lucky because we want to be here, not because we have to be here.”

“We all got in the business at different times and held different positions and kind of worked our way through,” said Brandon Tollefson. “Our parents were great mentors.”

Brent Tollefson began working in the business in 2004, Mackner in 2009 and Brandon Tollefson in 2011. All have their own area of responsibility in the retail group which has grown far beyond its beginnings in Minot.

What’s the secret to staying in business for 95 years?

“If we take care of our customers and take care of our team, that will take care of everything else,” said Mackner. “We’re not focusing on us, we’re focusing on everybody else. It’s a great industry because there’s lots of trends and people are always looking to do things. They want their homes to be comfortable. They want their house to be a home.”

“We keep up with the times and keep fresh products out there,” added Brandon Tollefson. “We have fun working with customers, helping them getting their home the way they want it and having a smile at the end of the day. That’s what we enjoy.”

Ninety-five years in business is proof that customers enjoy that service too.

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