|Alma Roher (center), with owners of Best Furniture, Carolynn and Craig Reis. Best Furniture is located at 1123 S. Fort Thomas Avenue is Fort Thomas, Kentucky. FTM file.|
"Once upon a time, anything remotely electronic was such an esthetic disgrace that designers would go so far as to hide the telephone in a tea cozy. Times have changed. Now, between home computers, laser disks and wall-sized television screens, electronics are an inevitability every designer must cope with. In fact, building the proper place to house state-of-the-art equipment has become an art in itself."
Thirty years at Best Furniture was preceded by 20 years at Kentucky Sales and Service.
"When I started in the business in 1962 I was selling everything from appliances to televisions to carpeting. Now people want help with design. You never heard that term back then, but Best Furniture was talking about that concept long before it was widely spoken of," said Rohrer.
Rohrer moved to Fort Thomas around the same time she was hired by Floyd and Carole Cameron, who bought Best Furniture from Charlie and Eva Best. She said that she and her late-husband moved to Fort Thomas because of the school system. Her son, Adam, went through Fort Thomas Independent. Moyer, Highlands, then University of Kentucky before settling into Independence.
Now owners Craig and Carolynn Reis count on Rohrer to be the steady hand in an ever-changing furniture landscape. "She was absolutely instrumental to us when we first bought the store thirteen years ago," said Craig Reis. "She helped us assimilate to the community and clients but was very open to the changes that were made. She's a true team player."
Rohrer said that one of her favorite parts about being in the furniture business is helping to make homes beautiful. She not only helps design the displays at the store, but says that people tell her that her home in Fort Thomas looks like the inside of Best Furniture as well.
"The store is such an asset to the community and sometimes people don't realize that," said Rohrer. "Everyday is interesting. Things change. Styles, colors and just working with our clientele, who are very loyal. It's always a reminder that I've been here for 30 years after I've helped three generations from one family purchase furniture."
Carolynn Reis echoed those sentiments and highlighted Rohrer's ability to communicate with her clientele and dedications to her craft.
"Recently a woman came in who had redesigned her household three times in the last 30 years and said each redesign was a completely different concept. She told me Alma helped nail down their vision perfectly each time," said Carolynn. "It speaks to her being able to keep up with latest styles and trends, being astute and approachable."
Rohrer says that her longevity in the business can be attributed to trust.
"Trust is very important. I try to listen to our clients and I think that comes across. I care about what they are telling me. It's not just a dollar sign to me," she said. "I've made lots of good friends by working here. I'll go out to dinner and socialize with them. When you have that trust, people really open up to you, not just about furniture, but about their lives."
Longtime customer of Best Furniture, Nancy Vogel has been coming to Alma with her decorating and design ideas as long as she can remember.
"She knows my decorating taste better than I do sometimes," said Vogel. "It's just nice to come into a store that is truly family owned and have someone know who you are, your kids and grandkids. Alma is more like family than just a person who works in a store."
With 50 years in the industry and 30 years at Best Furniture Gallery in Fort Thomas, Rohrer has heard it all. Some stories are happy. Some, sad.
"Everyone has a story," she said. "One day I had a client who came in an immediately began to cry. Her husband told me they had bought their first set of furniture here 60 years ago when they were first married and that she was very sentimental about it. I love that you touch a lot of people's lives."
Rohrer, who can recount with uncanny accuracy what she has sold and to whom, not only recalled what she sold to the couple that day, but also remembers where they ate for lunch after visiting Best.
She suggested Cobblestone Cafe.
"She called me while they were waiting in line and thanked me for the recommendation and said she just knew they were going to enjoy it," said Rohrer.
That's building rapport and trust.
"Alma rearranged entire floors here when we first bought the store. I've seen her move sofas by herself and even unload trucks," said Carolynn Reis. "While she's not necessarily doing heavy labor like that anymore, she puts the finishing touches on a room with her hip style better than many in the business. We are lucky to have her."
So is Fort Thomas.