Tom Blue Furniture, a family-owned business offering high-quality handmade furniture for customers both locally and across the country, is going out of business after 84 years. The owners said they were ready to retire and are grateful for the deep and meaningful bonds they formed with the community.
“Our family has been personally privileged to serve this community, and we express our deepest gratitude to all of our customers both past and present,” said Ruth Ann Mason, who runs the business with her husband Mike. “After 84 years of serving this community, we’re retiring and closing our doors.”
The furniture store was started by and named after Tom Blue in 1938. Blue was a finisher for the Willett Furniture Company in Louisville, until the 1937 flood forced him to move to Owensboro. He soon started a shop behind his Seven Hills home, where he repaired and refinished furniture.
Tom’s son Perry, who died in November 2020 at 90 years old, began working at the young age of 10 in the family business. In a 2018 interview with Owensboro Times, Perry said that when he was a student at Owensboro High School in the late 1940s, he “couldn’t wait” to get to work after school. Decades later, he still enjoyed the atmosphere of the business and continued going to the office up until 10 days before his death.
Perry’s daughter Ruth Ann started working at the business in 1976 after graduating from college. Her husband Mike started in 1979; Mike had no experience in the field but over the next decade he learned all the aspects of the trade from Perry.
In its early days, Tom eventually transitioned the business from repairing and finishing into making new furniture himself, largely by copying older pieces. When Perry took over the business in the mid-1950s, he added upholstered furniture, lamps, and accessories to the showroom. Over the last several years, Mike took custom design orders, and the store also began offering pieces they didn’t make.
“Over the years, we have developed into carrying more stuff that we don’t make too, but our bread and butter was handmade for years and years,” Ruth Ann said.
Tom relocated his shop in 1949 to where it stands now on Veach Road. They had already begun making furniture at that time, and the operation was entirely run out of what is now only the shop. They continued to expand the operation, eventually adding a large showroom next to the shop.
The business has endured two fires at their Veach location.
The first came in 1979, when someone threw a firecracker into the air tube for the spray booth. Thanks to quick response from the fire department and help from the community, the damage was limited.
“Before the fire department could even get their hoses hooked up, there were people pulling in the lot,” Mike said. “Farmers and different ones that we had sold handmade furniture to all showed up and helped us clean that entire shop out. We saved everything except the spray booth. It was all volunteer help that just showed up and helped us. That’s the kind of customers we’ve had throughout the years.”
Then in 2004, the entire showroom burned to the ground.
The community again played a role in supporting the business and family — both emotionally and physically. Once the store opened its doors again, community members and loyal customers showed up to help uncrate all the furniture in a day.
“We’ve got a really close-knit group of friends and customers that have just been very, very nice to us over the years,” Mike said. “Those are my two best examples of whenever something bad happened, they were here immediately to see if everything was okay. Our friendships with a lot of our customers have gone on for years and years.”
In discussing their decision to close their doors, the Masons simply said the timing was right.
“We’re ready to retire,” Ruth Ann said. “It’s just time. We had an opportunity to sell our buildings, and they’re giving us enough time to liquidate. We wanted to retire when we had the energy to liquidate, and then to be able to attend our grandkids’ ballgames and maybe do a little traveling.”
Mike added, “We’ve been very happy with what we’ve gotten. Sales have been good, but … keeping people for the shop and making furniture is hard to do right now. We’re getting up in years, so this was a good time. The offer was good on the property, so it was a good time for us to step back.”
The property was purchased by Independence Bank and is expected to be used for a training facility, the Masons said. The Masons gave a special thanks to realtors Ryan Rutman and Scott Lyons for their role in the process.
Rutman said working with the Masons was “one the greatest honors” of his real estate career.
“Tom Blue is a name I remember hearing all of the time when I first moved to Owensboro almost 20 years ago,” Rutman said. “Tom Blue has been a staple of quality and service in this community for a very, very long time. The Tom Blue story is an All-American story that started in a little garage (many little garages actually), and year by year grew to be an iconic business in Owensboro and the surrounding areas.”
Tom Blue Furniture will still have ownership of the showroom through February 15 but will likely close in the weeks before then. They will have the shop through June or July, so they’ll wrap up operations there. Mike has a few pieces to finish making plus a few refinishing jobs to complete.
While they aren’t accepting new handmade orders, the Mason said they can take orders of pieces made elsewhere.
All of the machinery will be auctioned whenever the shop closes. There may also be an auction for any remaining furniture pieces.
Currently, all inventory is 25-50% off. Anyone wanting to make a purchase or with questions can visit the store at 2737 Veach Road Owensboro or call 270-683-4921.