The Schmitt Furniture Company is one of New Albany’s oldest businesses. Founded in 1936 by Charles Schmitt, Sr., the company opened for business in a store at State and Market Streets. In 1944, it moved to its present location at “furniture corner,” the name long associated with the intersection of State and Main streets. Furniture manufacturing thrived in early New Albany. Plentiful supplies of hardwood timber and strong demand for cabinetry and furniture from shipbuilders made a potent combination. New Albany soon became recognized as a regional center of furniture manufacturing. For nearly a century, the intersection of State and Main has been associated with furniture retailing. Several different merchants have occupied stores at furniture corner or close by.
In the 1850s, John Shrader operated a furniture factory, warehouse, and retail store on Main Street between First and State streets (now the location of the YMCA). In 1857, New Albany manufacturers produced an estimated $60,000 in furniture. When New Albany’s shipyards ended production after the Civil War, furniture makers began producing for the retail market. Many did well. By the early twentieth century, Shrader alone produced furniture valued at between $65,000 and $75,000 annually.
When W. S. Culbertson built his 26-room mansion on Main Street in 1869, he purchased furniture from John Shrader and two other dealers, David R. Scott and George Kraft. Shrader and Sons advertised the “very finest furniture” at “lower rates that any house in this vicinity can afford.” Their “mammoth furniture wareroom” occupied two floors. “Bedsteads, bureaus, wardrobes, tables, chairs “and other articles of chamber and parlor furniture” filled the ground level; dining room, bed room, and kitchen furniture were displayed on the second floor. A factory owned by Henry Klerner ranked among the other major producers of the era. Located at the corner of Fifth and Oak streets, it manufactured a diversified line of consumer furnishings.
The Schmitt Company is among the oldest retail firms in New Albany. In 1959, it expanded its showroom by adding a special department for early American furniture and an exchange store for used and discounted items. In 1976 it added additional floor space to accommodate a greater range of goods. Reasonable prices, a large selection, and a strong commitment to New Albany are core principles. In 2011, the Schmitt Company celebrated its 75th Anniversary at the corner of State and Main. Smith’s Furniture was its main downtown competitor until 2005, when Smith’s moved to a shopping center off Veterans Parkway in Clarksville after thirty-six years at the corner of State and Market streets.