AMORY – When Josh Tomlin was 12 years old, he spent the summer after his fifth-grade year working five hours a day, five days a week for $5 an hour at his parent’s manufacturing business, A-1 Family Furniture.
Flashing forward 15 years, he and his longtime friend and now business partner, Howard Summers, recently acquired ownership of the company, which is a premier supplier for the furniture industry and beyond, manufacturing custom wood components.
A-1 Family Furniture was founded by Josh’s parents, Herman and Patty Tomlin, in mid-1994 as a single-line furniture manufacturer. Through the years, the business shifted its focus from direct retail manufacturing to a supply based, B2B, operation and moved locations before landing in its current site alongside Puckett Drive.
"There was never a plan for me to take over the business. Knowing my passion and knowledge of the industry, and my entrepreneurial desire, the idea of me purchasing the business just kind of happened in the course of some months that we were in conversation. They weren’t necessarily looking for a way out, it’s just I was looking for a way in and kind of found it,” Josh said of how the transition of ownership came to be.
After negotiating the transition of A-1 with his parents, Josh realized he needed a partner for leadership, emotional, financial and spiritual support and guidance, and Summers was the only person on his list.
“Josh and I have been friends for a really long time. We went to school together. Josh and I have always resonated with each other, but I feel like our friendship blossomed. I was about to exit college, and we both found our faith and our similar interest in business,” Summers said. “Josh was on his path, and I was on mine. We have similar mindsets in business and ambition and how we handle them from a matter of integrity. That’s how we’ve known each other.”
Summers recognized Herman and Patty for building their business on exceptional quality and service and fostering and growing the manufacturing company, adding the new ownership will continue its growth. He wants A-1 to be a reflection of his and Josh’s ideals.
“Obviously it’s a for-profit, but we look at business differently. We want business to be essentially an extension of ourselves and be an opportunity to put ourselves in something worthy of our efforts and display our faith and intentions of the community,” Summers said.
While Josh is 27, Summers is 29. Along with being members of a younger generation of local business owners comes new ambitions and responsibilities.
“Our thoughts on being the next business leaders – one, it’s a privilege. We grew up in Amory. We are who we are because of Amory, the people and the city. We owe a debt of gratitude to the city and to the state. It’s a privilege to give back to the city in the terms of running a company that will grow; will provide jobs and employment; and essentially provide an outlet for families to take care of themselves. That’s not something we take lightly. We look at that almost as a mission to an extent beyond just a need to make a dollar,” Summers said.
A-1 Family Furniture currently employs 42 people, with 50 employees planned within the next few months. The manufacturer could potentially have closer to 60 employees in the near future. In the process, it will seek a strong employee base.
“You just think about what kind of life you are providing for these people in your employment, and that’s a driving force for pretty much everything we do in our decisions. We’re trying to provide for not only them but also their kids. We’re not only trying to provide meals, we’re trying to provide for good quality of life. We’d like to make an impact spiritually and emotionally to the people we’re around and encourage them and foster their abilities and mindset in all we do,” Josh said.