At the 200 block of South Cameron Street, you’ll find two “Harrisburg staples” — Eddie’s Furniture and Mattresses and Eddie’s Clothing Store.
Owner Eddie Ruth has been a business owner for nearly 50 years and says his key to success is that he treats every customer like family.
“If people understand you to be a fair-minded person, that word gets around,” he said. “But if you are not fairminded, that gets around even faster.”
Ruth said he’d wanted to own his own business since he was a kid. He grew up alongside his brothers, listening to their grandfather tell stories of how he started his produce and grocery business in the 1930′s.
“He started with buying one truck and going down in the neighborhood selling produce. Then later on bought a second truck,” Ruth said. “I was inspired by his story, telling us how he started his business.”
Ruth opened his first business, Eddie’s Mod Shop, in downtown York in 1972. Two years later he opened a second clothing store in his hometown of Hampton, S.C., and moved his York store to downtown Harrisburg “in search of a greater opportunity,” according to his website.
Ruth opened Eddie’s Furniture Gallery in 1996 in downtown Harrisburg. The store was relocated to its current 48,000-square-foot Cameron Street location in 2000, and the clothing store followed.
Ruth said he’s put in a lot of extra hours over the decades to make the business a success.
“Business has its ebbs and flows. Given the hours you put in (as the owner) you’re probably one of the least paid employees,” Ruth said, “because of the time you put in.”
Ruth said that’s nothing new. He put in long hours even as a teenager working after-school jobs to help out his family.
“We’re used to hard work and long hours,” he said. “My father raised us to always be helpful and always to try to get a job.”
Erik Whitaker, manager at Eddie’s Furniture Store, said Eddie is known for treating his customers like family.
“Doesn’t matter what color or race you are, if you need help, he’ll try and help you,” Whitaker said.
Being his own boss is Ruth’s favorite part of owning his business.
“If it doesn’t work out, no one can criticize me for it,” he said. “The only thing – if it doesn’t work out – it’s my loss. If it does work out, it’s my gain.”
Ruth said one resource that helped him time and again was the Small Business Administration.
“All the resources are there, you just have to learn how to tap into them,” Ruth said. “A lot of people get discouraged because lots of government programs you try to access — it’s not the easiest thing to access. You have to continue to try.”
He said the best thing you can do as a business owner is to not give up, and to treat every customer with respect.
“We think about our customers as a part of our family, we treat people like we want to be treated — and it’s worked for us,” Ruth said.