The end of an era 1885-2021

Bruce Furniture Store is closing this year after 72 years. Larry Roy Bruce has chosen to retire. The store was originally home to both Bruce Furniture store and Bruce Funeral Home. Photos courtesy of Shirley Bruce Brown VanArsdale

Larry Roy Bruce, Gardner, might have never imagined he would be a part of a 136-year legacy, but he is definitely that.
In the year 1885, Gardner opened its first furniture and undertaking business. It has been documented as Johnson County’s oldest-continuously owned business.
Peter J. Murphy, who was born in 1855 in County Wexford, Ireland, emigrated with his family to Illinois in 1864. In 1872 he came to live with his sister near Gardner. A marriage to Laura McPherson in 1885 set up the opportunity to open a new business in a wooden building owned by his father-in-law on the southwest corner of Elm and Main.
For twenty-nine years Murphy served the community of Gardner. In 1914, he sold his business to J.W. Stanley and his son Halston. The location moved to the northside of Main St. Stanley added a line of pianos to the furniture inventory. After a fire destroyed several buildings, Stanley acquired several lots on the south side of Main and in 1917 the present brick building that is Bruce Furniture Store.
About 1925 H.E. Ewing took over store operations and conducted funerals with Stanley continuing as the embalmer. Then in 1928 Stanley’s daughter, Grace, returned to Gardner with her husband, Harry Patteson, and they took over the operations. When Harry passed away, Grace decided to sell the business.
Roy and Betty Bruce were chosen from among several interested buyers and became the next owners in 1949. In 1955 they bought the historic brick home at Main and Center Streets and added a large chapel and other rooms needed for a funeral home. The funeral and furniture businesses now had their own buildings. Larry Bruce and his sister Shirley assisted their parents in running the businesses. Larry graduated from Kansas University with a degree in commercial art. He continued assisting in the family business until the decision was made to divide the businesses in 1986. At that time Roy and Betty entered into semi-retirement. Shirley, also a KU graduate, managed the funeral home, and Larry managed the furniture store with each becoming owners.
Over the years, many have worked for Larry including wife Betsy and many family members. It was truly been a family business. Many local residents also worked for him over the years which also provided summer jobs to students.
Bruce Furniture earned a wonderful reputation for fine quality furniture, flooring choices and paints with excellent service for installation and deliveries. Customers knew that Larry would fix anything that needed fixing. He provided merchandise from well known and proven high-quality companies such as Lazy Boy, Broyhill, Tell City, and Riverside.
Larry always took time to visit with customers. 2021 marks the end of an era for Bruce Furniture Store. Larry has chosen to retire. Thank you doesn’t cover the gratitude felt by the Bruce family for the community’s support and friendship for these 72 years.
Article provided by Shirley Bruce Brown VanArsdale