Furnishing a Legacy
Jack, Bob, and their families were involved in all aspects of Chelsea life, including the Chamber of Commerce, nonprofits, the schools, and St. Mary Catholic Church--and Jack served as mayor. "This is three square miles where people know each other, trust each other, and when we want to get things done we can do it," Jack says. Jack and his wife Mary Ann, who also worked at Merkel for several years, still live in Chelsea on the same block as Tim and his wife, Anne. Bob and his wife Barbara now live in Ann Arbor.
Today, Tim Merkel focuses on furniture, while Fred Zuidveld runs the flooring side in Chelsea and at a second location in Ann Arbor. They employ a couple dozen part- and full-time staff, including college-educated designers. Tim says one thing that sets them apart is "a more diverse product offering." He points to a couch. "We have about 400 fabric choices for this," he says, explaining that it's important to offer options because "people and houses come in all shapes and sizes."
There is no heir apparent to take over the business next, Bob says. Since 1990, two of Jack's sons, Dan and Matt, have run GCO Carpet franchises in Ann Arbor and Jackson, but they're not affiliated with Merkel. Jack's other two sons, as well as Bob's three children, have chosen different careers--as have Tim's two sons, who are in their twenties.