On the Cover
Betty Schlaht is retiring as co-owner of Selmer’s Home Furnishings in Aberdeen to spend more time playing pinochle.
Betty Schlaht and sister Maxine Cogburn, right.
Betty and Selmer Schlaht at their 25th wedding anniversary. They started what would become Selmer's Home Furnishings in Aberdeen in 1972. Selmer passed away in 2005 and Betty is retiring this year, selling her share of the business to three of their children.
Betty Schlaht plays pinochle nearly every day. She could play every day, but is busy making the family dinner Wednesday.
Mondays, she and her sister, Maxine Cogburn, head out to the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester for lunch, Keno, slots and “a couple hands” of pinochle with her brother, Eugene Warne, at her daughter Sherry Erickson’s house on the way home. The Aberdeen Senior Center has games on Tuesday and Thursday, Hoquiam Senior Center has games Monday and Friday, the Montesano Moose Lodge has Thursday evening games. She could play at the Montesano Senior Center Wednesdays, but that’s family night. They usually play a dice game her kids enjoy, but otherwise its pinochle when they head home. Plus, there’s weekend tournaments.
She likes the challenge, the competition and keeping her mind sharp.
“It’s the challenge of the bidding. You take a chance that your partner will have your card. There’s a lot of things to remember,” Betty said. “If I got to bed thinking pinochle, that’s a good thing.”
On Sundays, Betty and Maxine go to church at Amazing Grace in Aberdeen. They do just about everything together. Betty also gardens and garage sales but pinocle is her passion. At 77, she figures it’s about time to sell her share of the family business — Selmer’s Home Furnishing — to her children.
“It just seemed the best time,” she said. The store’s annual sale traditionally is in September. This year became a retirement sale for Betty. She is turning the business over wholly to her children while she’s alive rather than having it linger in probate after she’s gone. Once her share of the inventory sells, she officially retires and the sale ends.
“She can’t quit until the rest of her furniture sells,” son Tim Schlaht quipped. He and sisters Sherry Erickson and Vicky Trader co-own the business their parents, Betty and Selmer, started in 1972.
Betty and Selmer bought a pair of couches at auction for the rec room of their South Aberdeen home planning to buy one to pay for the other. They sold both and after a few more successful resellings of auction-bought furniture they partnered with Betty’s brother to start a furniture store. After a few years, the families split the business with the Schlahts calling their store on Wishkah Street Selmer’s Home Furnishings.
Betty and Selmer moved to the Harbor in 1956. They sold everything they owned and headed West to be near family that had relocated. They had two young children and one on the way. Selmer worked at a tire store for a month, then at a mill for a few months.
“He never liked those jobs,” Betty said. “I was on pins and needles the whole time (because their finances were so uncertain).”
Selmer worked construction for a few years until he was laid off and became a ssawyer at Don Dineen’s shake mill for a few years. He then was hired to bid on construction jobs, but figured he’d make more money if he did the construction work himself and began doing remodeling jobs independently before the fateful couch purchase that segued the family into the furniture business.
“Selmer had a knack for figures. He was good at numbers and he was good at selling,” Betty said. “And he was honest.”
The traits made him a good businessman; His family values made him a good father, she said. They had a total of five children, sons Gene (who lives and owns a painting business in Everett) and Tim and daughters Sherry, Vicki and Cindy (who lives in McCleary and works in Olympia).
Selmer died in February 2005. A week later, a fire devastated the store. That’s when Tim, Sherry and Vicki partnered with their mom to rebuild and take over the management of the business. The store reopened in 2006. Betty had stepped back from the day-to-day business and was officially retired, though she remained a co-owner and visited the store nearly every day to help out. This time, she really means it.
“We’ll miss her (at the store),” Tim said. Though they’ll pretty much see her every day and at the Wednesday family dinner. Family has always been important to the Schlaht family. Even when they didn’t have much money as a young couple with five children, they always had something fun to do together.
In the ’60s and ’70s they would take a family vacation with another couple and their children — between them they had four adults and 14 kids — by buying an old bus, outfitting it for a road trip and spending several weeks driving somewhere for an extended camping trip: Disneyland, Colorado, Mexico. When they got back, they’d sell the bus at a profit.
“The trips never actually cost a dime,” Betty said. “We had a lot of experience without costing us any money.”
When the children were older, in the ’80s, they visited Selmer’s brother in Florida, bought a house and considered spending winters there. They were gone just a few weeks and problems at the store brought them back. Their Harbor roots kept them from going back to the Sunshine State.
“I’m not leaving my kids here,” Betty said. “Our roots are here.”