George B. Cartledge, Jr.

George B. Cartledge Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Grand Home Furnishings, Inc., was born in Atlanta on August 8, 1941. He moved to Roanoke with his family in 1952. His father, the eldest of five children, was from Ila, GA. His mother was from Thomaston, GA. His parents married in 1932 and his sister, Pat Bennett, was born in 1934.  His father went into the furniture business during the Depression.  After proving his ability to a furniture store in Atlanta, he became the best furniture salesman in Atlanta and eventually a partner in that business. In 1952, George Sr. made a deal with his employers to take over their new store, Grand Piano, in Roanoke.

When his family moved to Roanoke from Atlanta, Cartledge Jr. went into the sixth grade at Crystal Spring Elementary and later attended Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg.  He then applied to Hampden-Sydney and was graduated with honors in 1963 with a B.A. in Economics.  In 1961, following his sophomore year at Hampden-Sydney, he married his girlfriend, Mary Ann James.  They have a son and daughter and nine grandchildren. Son, George Cartledge III, was born in 1963, is married to Barbara and has four children. Daughter, Ann, was born in 1965, is married to Joe Hoff and has five children.

While Cartledge was still a boy in Atlanta, he started his sales career by selling Cokes. At first, he stood on a corner and sold the Cokes, much like a lemonade stand. Then he figured he could sell more if he put the Cokes in a wagon and took them to apartment buildings – which he did with great success!  In Roanoke, he first went to work for Grand Piano in the warehouse at the age of 13. He made $10 a week. His father let him keep $1 and made him put $9 in the bank.  He has served as a truck driver, salesman and, later, buyer.  As of this year, Cartledge has been at Grand full-time for 50 years.

In 1951, Grand Piano began to expand outside of Roanoke.  At one time, Grand had 23 stores. Largely because of consolidating several stores within a community into a single store, the total number was reduced to 17. Recently, the company acquired four stores in West Virginia. Grand has stores in most college towns and in all instances except Lexington stores have been moved out of the city center.

Grand is a family-owned business which treats employees like family and the company’s policies toward customers are family-friendly. The business also has a 30-day return policy and, to ensure satisfaction, calls every customer after a delivery is made.  The key corporate focus is on not only attracting but also keeping customers.  “We get a lot of repeat business,” Cartledge said. “We sell to second and third generations.” Attention to each customer is one-way Grand keeps and grows its customer base. “The customer’s experience needs to be excellent, Cartledge stressed, whether they buy anything.  In 1997, the company dropped “piano” from its name.  Cartledge discussed the difference between the furniture industry and other industries, which he attributed largely to long-time working relationships. “One thing about the furniture business, the principals of companies are directly involved in buying – picking the merchandise – and in marketing. You’ll find this across the country,” he said.

When the company celebrated its 100th anniversary two years ago, every current and former employee and their spouse were invited to a dinner at Hotel Roanoke. “We take care of them, and they take care of us.” He also said that the company promotes from within. “The executives who make the decisions have come up through the ranks,” he explained.  Son, George III is President and nephew, Robert, is Executive Vice President of the corporation serving as “co-chiefs” for operating the corporation.

Cartledge has served on numerous boards of local corporations and non-profit organizations. He has served on Roanoke Memorial’s and Carilion Clinic’s board for almost 40 years. He currently is the chairman of the board for Center in the Square and was a key figure in the Center’s recent capital campaign. He is vice-chair and a charter member of the Hometown Bank board. He was president of the Rescue Mission when they funded the main building that houses most of the mission’s activities His service has garnered several awards and recognition. Hampden-Sydney College, where he is a trustee emeritus, presented him with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award. He also has received the Multiple Sclerosis Society award, the Excellence in Governance award from the Virginia Hospital Association and the Red Triangle Award from the YMCA. His key passions are traveling with family, reading, photography, fishing, golf, and cars which even led to the Woods Brothers and Nascar involvement.

George B. Cartledge, Jr. was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 2013.

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