In February 2014, family and friends gathered in Vestavia Hills to celebrate the opening of Issis & Sons-Greenbrier, the fourth location of a successful area business. Owner Steve Issis has employed the same guiding principle throughout his 33-year career in the retail flooring and furniture industry. “We've always listened to what our customers wanted, and they want convenient locations and excellent service,” says Issis. “We have four stores now, but they all follow the same philosophy that our boss is the customer.”
A native of Birmingham, Issis got his start in the business when he was still a teenager. He began laying carpet and tile as his own one-man company shortly after graduating from Ensley High School. “I liked the work, and I learned that I really loved to please my customers,” Issis recalls. “So I did that for about three years and then in 1983, I decided to open the first store.”
From the very beginning, Issis & Sons has been a family enterprise. Issis's father, Odeh, took a chance on his young entrepreneurial son and helped him open the first store in Pelham. “We only had 1,000 square feet and a staff of two. We really started this thing from the ground up, and performed all the hands-on work ourselves,” says Issis. The father and son worked closely together every day until Odeh passed away in 2001. “I loved working with him, and wouldn’t trade a single minute of it. He taught me to be successful in business and in life, always challenged me to really think and make sure to do the right thing. He told me to never do something to anyone that I wouldn't want done back to me.”
Over the years, the company has continued to expand, with the Pelham store now exceeding 100,000 square feet of space. The growing customer base began to request a new location in the Highway 280 area. “So, in 2000, we opened a 22,000 square-foot store in Greystone,” Issis explains. In 2008, the Issis family embarked on a new business venture: the opening of Issis & Sons Furniture Gallery in Pelham, at the intersection of Cahaba Valley Road and Alabama 119. Issis says he responded to suggestions from the professional designers he works with that his company offer furniture, drapes, accessories and more. “It was right around the time the economy bottomed out, and our designers thought that our customers would respond well to having things packaged and available all under one roof. So we broadened our services to offer all the amenities of interior design.”
In 2014, Greenbrier Furniture closed after 50 years of business in Vestavia Hills, and Issis purchased the 28,000 square-foot landmark building for his newest location. Issis points out that the store’s name, Issis & Sons-Greenbrier, is a nod to the building’s history. “It's a great location and will be great for our customers. We're happy to be in Vestavia Hills."
Issis remains committed to a family-centered model of business. He currently resides in Hoover with his wife of 22 years, Cynthia, and his three children, ages 15-21. His children are still too young to think about taking over the reins of the family business, but it's something the father of three admits he has thought about. He laughs: “It's an opportunity for them, if that's what they choose. But yes, it would be pretty cool.” Other family members work for the company, including two nephews who help with the running of the different locations. Moreover, Issis & Sons claims many long-term employees.
Issis & Sons may have started out as a one-man operation, but over the last 30 years has grown to become a premier company in the area, with locations on Pelham Parkway, Greystone Boulevard, Cahaba Valley Road, and U.S. 31 in Vestavia Hills. “The name itself pays homage to the past but offers a vision of the future,” he insists. “We've gone from that first 1,000 square-foot space to four stores equal to about 200,000 square feet, and we offer everything from carpet and flooring to furniture and accessories.” With a global network of design professionals staying abreast of the latest and best trends in home design and furnishings from around the world, Issis & Sons is able to provide their customers with options beyond the ordinary. “You don't have to go to New York, London or Paris for the home you've always envisioned,” says Issis. “We can bring your dream to you.”