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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - L.A. Waters marks 80 years in business
Si and Anthony Waters Web
Si and Anthony Waters

Business Ticker


        Statesboro's newest restaurant, Southern Boys BBQ, opened yesterday and is owned by Georgia Southern University grads Stephen Maenpaa and Woody Pumphrey. The Painted Chef, Shug Phillips, helped set the menu and train the team. Southern Boys BBQ is located at 721 S. Main St. between Talbots and Jersey Mike's Subs. The Georgia Southern themed restaurant's menu includes butts, brisket and ribs. Dine in, take out, drive through and catering are available. Open daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (912) 243-9433

        Former professional football player Dusty Zeigler, owner of Dusty Zeigler Insurance, recently earned the "Allstate Personal Financial Representative" title. Zeigler will now be able to provide customers with a broader suite of life, retirement and savings products. Zeigler received this title after passing the Series 6 and Series 63 securities license exams and completing extensive Allstate training. He is appointed with the broker-dealer Allstate Financial Services LLC and is located at 335 S. Walnut St. in Statesboro. (912) 764-6500. A native of Effingham County, Dusty played for Notre Dame and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and ended his professional career playing for the New York Giants.

Farmers Market vendor of the week: Freeman's Mill

 

        In the 1930s, while selling insurance in Waycross, Loy A. Waters Sr. called on the owner of a local furniture store. He thought it was an interesting business model and decided to move back home to Twin City and open L.A. Waters furniture in 1934.
        2014 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of L.A. Waters Furniture, so I asked Loy Waters Sr.'s son Si, who also was born 80 years ago, if he ever thought the company would thrive for so many years.
         "We are so thankful for the many friends and customers from all over southeast Georgia that have made our first 80 years possible," he said.
        L.A. Waters is the second oldest continuously operating family-owned business in Statesboro — edged out by McDougald Oil by just a few years.
        Using ideas he had gleamed from the insurance industry, Loy Waters Sr. set up routes and hired salesmen to go to neighboring towns and sell furniture. They would sell furniture one week, deliver the next week and collect weekly as they grew the routes. In doing this, Waters established the area's first installment plan for the furniture business. It would prove to be one of many firsts the Waters family would innovate.
        During World War II, gas and tires were very difficult to find. Because of this, Waters decided he needed to move his operation to Millen, Swainsboro or Statesboro, which was where his largest customer bases resided. He obviously chose Statesboro and located the business in several locations before settling at the corner of West Main and Walnut streets, near where the store is located now.
        In the early years, Waters' business model was based on reselling used furniture purchased from a New York broker who shipped it to Leesville, S.C. Every Wednesday, the Waterses would go purchase a truckload and bring it back to sell. In the '60s, Loy A. Waters Jr. joined the family business after graduating from the University of Georgia. We all know him by his nickname, Si. A nickname he was given because of his uncanny interest in the "Silas Green from New Orleans" traveling tent show that came to town when he was a child.
       After making trips with his dad to Leesville, Si realized that he and his dad, along with one other furniture buyer, were purchasing the majority of the shipments. He got together with the other buyer and decided to bypass the middle man and buy direct. Once a month, Si would fly to New York, purchase a truckload of furniture and fly back home in a 24-hour period.
       Waters Sr. told Si that "anything well-bought is half-sold." It was advice that still proves to be true today when they are purchasing product for their stores.
        In 1963, Si convinced his dad to purchase their first building, the old State Theater at 8 W. Main St. Si renovated the store himself and moved the store from the rented storefront up the street a few buildings.
        One year later, the store was destroyed by fire.
        L.A. Waters III (Anthony) was 5. He remembers it like it was yesterday.
        "My most vivid memory was moving the furniture that was salvaged from the fire, most of it with water spots and heat damage back down the street to the old store front. Our customers and friends came and purchased the damaged furniture to help give our family the money to rebuild," Anthony said.
        Rebuild they did. The company came back stronger than ever, and the Waters boys have never looked back. Anthony joined the business full-time after graduating from Georgia Southern College in 1982 and helped open the newest location of L.A. Waters on Lovett Road.
        Si told Anthony that if he "worked really hard and didn't let his shirttail hit his back, he might just make it."
Anthony heeded this advice and has focused on growing the family business exponentially. In the '90s, along with his brother Fred, they opened Rentown, which has grown to be an eight-store chain and allows purchases with no-credit-check financing. Three years ago, they opened I Save More Furniture and Mattress Store on Northside Drive East. It features great buys on discontinued and factory-closeout furniture and mattresses.
        The West Main store is still operating and is their budget-based store. They also operate two warehousing facilities downtown covering a combined 60,000 square feet and employ just under 50 workers throughout the company.
        When I asked Anthony what he felt like was their key to success, he said, "Good service, good selection, great quality and incredible employees."
        Those were the four keys Loy A. Waters Sr. used when he founded the company 80 years ago.

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