By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Tony Rihner began his furniture industry career 49 years ago, and there’s no indication he’s slowing down anytime soon.
Selling furniture just comes naturally for the 71-year-old.
“It’s been a love for people,” he said. “I sell something and it makes me feel good.”
Rihner was named the 2014 Spring Tupelo Furniture Market winner of the Manufacturer’s Rep Award on Friday.
“I thought this was an award for old men,” he said with a laugh.
A New Orleans native, Rihner began his career with Kirschman’s Furniture in 1965 as a store manager and assistant buyer, then worked for Krebs-Stengel Co. of New York as a sales representative for Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
From 1968-2009 he worked with Schnadig Corp. as a sales rep for the same territories, plus Memphis. During his time with Schnadig, he picked up several sales awards, including the Lawrence K. Schnadig Award for Salesman of the Year in 1996 and Louisiana Home Furniture Rep of the Year two years later.
He now represents Hillsdale, Aria Upholstery, L.G. Leather and Barcalounger.
“I’ve known Tony for 30 years,” said Barcalounger vice president William Holland. “We met at Schnadig, where he was a mentor when we got there, and he’s been a great salesman.”
Rihner said there’s no secret to his success. The tried-and-true method of building relationships is obvious, but he admits to having another motivation.
“It’s an ego thing. You want people to like you, and when you convince them to buy something from you, no matter the price, it makes you feel good,” he said.
Rihner isn’t always in selling mode, however. He’s been married to his wife, Suzanne, for 48 years, and he’s looking forward to going on vacation with her later this year to Pamplona, Spain.
It’s a return trip for the Spanish-speaking Rihner, who ran with the bulls 11 years ago.
“I made sure I could run at least 100 yards and for 15 seconds. … I could do that when I was 60 – I don’t think I could do that now.”
Tupelo Furniture Market officials want him coming back as well. He’s been to every market since the first event in 1987.
“This award is very humbling,” Rihner said. “I’ve gotten a lot of awards over the years, but there’s nothing more exciting than getting an award from your peers. It’s the most special thing. Tupelo has been great to me. I’m from New Orleans and it’s real important that we have Tupelo.”