Saturday, November 10, 2007

Success Despite Adversity - St. Charles Office Furniture

Success Despite Adversity
St. Charles
Office Furniture

A profile of Pete Barteau, former police chief, deli operator and owner of St. Charles New & Used Office Furniture

By Tony Brockmeyer

We first wrote about Pete and St. Charles Office Furniture in March of 2002. After operating out of several strip mall stores on Highway 94 North, they are now located in a large 17,000 square foot warehouse on Fountain Lakes.

Pete Barteau and I grew up a few blocks apart in Florissant. That was back when the population was about 250. Somewhere in our lineage we believe that we were related. My grandmother was a Barteau. But more of that later.

While Pete worked as a police chief in Hillsdale, Edmundson, St. John and Pevely, his wife Pat operated a deli for ten years on Highway 94 South. At the urging of his wife, Pete quit the Pevely police department to help her at the deli. Then came the 1993 flood, which ruined the deli and left them both out of work.

“After the flood we didn’t know what to do,” Pete said. “Everybody around us was filing bankruptcy. We told our creditors, don’t sue us and we will get you all paid.” Pepsi wrote us a nice letter of credit for $7000 but we didn’t want to get back in the deli business because the business is hard and you are on your feet a lot.”

In December of 1993 Pete started selling office furniture out of a two-car garage with two desks that he got from McDonnell Douglas. “They were so ugly you wouldn’t even want them in your garage, but, I sold them. I remember going to the hospital and telling my father, dad I sold those two desks that I cleaned up and painted for $75. Two ugly old desks that I fixed up. He was in intensive care dying. He rose up smiled and layed back down. He has passed, but, if he could see me now he would really be happy”.
When asked how he decided on office furniture Pete said, “I knew that every office had to have a desk and every desk had to have a chair and I just though I would give it a try. That is how I started. I had a dream. I wanted to be the biggest and the best and actually my dream has come true. I pray a lot when I go to bed at night. I really do. I thank God for all the good things that have happened to me throughout the day. Things just seem to get better and better, I swear.”

Pete started with used office furniture but later added new office furniture. “I never thought I could sell new,” Pete remarked. “But I had customers come in who wanted new furniture. So I started a little piece here and a little piece there. I gave them good deals that they couldn’t get anywhere else. I actually helped little businesses that were starting out and couldn’t afford to put out a lot of money so I gave them a lot of credit. I extended credit to them with no interest. Helped small little insurance companies and things like that get started. They have come back to me bought more and more because nobody else would do for them what I did. I kind of grew my business that way. I have the best.”

When St. Charles Office Furniture sells office furniture it is cleaned up and is fixed up before it is ever offered for sale because Pete wants his customers to have a good product. At St. Charles Office Furniture they care about their customers.

Pete was asked as a successful businessman what advice would he give to someone just starting out in business. “Be honest with your customers. Give them a good product for their money. And above all stand behind your product,” he said.

Pete said that the most important things he has learned, as a businessman was integrity. ‘When I sell a product to a person I am excited about the product. When they walk out the door I know they have a good product. I know they have a product that is going to last them. I know they have a product that is going to hold up. Be honest with your customers, give them a good value and stand behind it.”

St. Charles Office Furniture sells top of the line business furniture. Steel Case, Hayworth, Herman Miller, DSA, Performance, and most major brands. If you need something that St. Charles Furniture does not have they will get it for you. Financing is available. Delivery and set-up is also available.

Asked if he had any disappointments Pete said, “No disappointments, not really. Everything has been good. I have to say, and I don’t know why everything has been good. I am just treated well. Maybe it is the praying I do at night before I go to bed. God has been good to me. I have to say that.”

Pete’s wife Pat has retired from the business but other members of his family are involved.

The 17,000 square feet of office furniture at St. Charles Office furniture can be found at 710 Fountain Lakes Boulevard. Their hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday and they can be reached at 636 947-3172.

During the time we were growing up in Florissant the city had a volunteer fire department. When you called the station for a fire alarm the hone would set off the siren that was located atop the firehouse. When you heard the siren go off drivers knew it was time to get off the streets. The firemen, most of whom were local businessmen, would jump in their cars; turn on their red lights and sirens and race to the firehouse. When they arrived they leaped from their vehicles and ran for the fire truck. Their personal cars were sitting all over the streets by the firehouse with their motors running, headlights on and red lights flashing. Pete lived across the street from the firehouse. The volunteer firemen trained him on how to turn off their cars and lights. When the fire truck pulled out Pete would run over and turn off the cars and the lights and stay there and keep an eye on things until the firemen returned. His reward was a bottle of soda. I would have liked to have had that job, but, Pete had it sewed up.