by Rona Mann / Photos courtesy Madison Furniture Barn

Friendship. True, lasting friendship. It’s a rare and beautiful thing. It’s about what’s real, not what’s trending at the moment. It’s honest, sincere, permanent. 

Eileen Smith knows what it means to be a true friend. She cemented friendships as far back as middle school days, and today as the owner of Madison Furniture Barn in Westbrook, the way she conducts business is based on what she learned early on from her friends. Many of Smith’s staff members are those she knew as a young girl, even her roommate from UConn. When Smith speaks, she never refers to them as “employees.” Instead she readily says, “We all have our own area in which we excel, but we are not pigeon-holed. We all do a bit of everything. We all buy the merchandise, we sell, we clean the store, we make phone calls and return messages, there are no set rules here.” 

There’s a sign that sits rather unobtrusively in the front window of the store; you may notice it upon entering, or when you leave, but if you do stop to read it, it serves as the very foundation upon which Madison Furniture Barn is built. 

When given the choice between being right and being kind, be kind. 

A small sign, but it speaks volumes. 

Madison Furniture Barn was established in 1997 “when my brother-in-law, Pat Kelly, asked me, ‘Want to open a furniture store?’” Neither Eileen Smith, whose college degree and business background had been solidly in finance, nor her brother-in-law had any experience whatsoever in furniture nor in working at a furniture store, but nevertheless they jumped in, opening in a very small 900 square foot space in Madison. In the beginning it was just Eileen, Pat, and Eileen’s husband, Artie. They worked hard, they learned, and Madison Furniture Barn flourished from the start because of that cornerstone of honesty, sincerity, and kindness. Thirteen years ago, Smith bought out Kelly and moved to the Westbrook Outlets on Flat Rock Place. “We started here with 6000 square feet,” Eileen says, now we’ve almost tripled our size at 15,000 square feet.” 

Although the store is well stocked with beautifully displayed solid wood furniture and accessories, Smith is most interested in pointing out the frequent signs sprinkled throughout that read, “We want you to be able to browse our store in peace and quiet! But if you need us, please just ask!” 

This “mantra” is adhered to strictly by Eileen and her staff. “There’s nothing worse than going into a store and having a salesperson grab you by the ankles,” she laughs. “Our people are here if you need us, want to ask a question, want to take some fabric choices home to see how they’ll work, or for anything else. If you want help and need your hand held, they’ll do it, but they stay away from your ankles.” 

Her people – her friends – are very important to Madison Furniture Barn’s success, so meet Eileen’s college roommate, Patty, the interior decorator who will come to your home for consultation, measurements, and to make recommendations within your budget; and Trish, the friend from middle school who is known as “Miss Perfect” at the Barn, since she is a perfectionist, rarely making a mistake. Andrea is called “Girl Boss” and has the coffee mug to attest to this fact; and all are backed up and supported by K.C., Taryn, and Colleen. 

The key to any successful business is the blending of talents. Beyond the sales and the decorating comes the important piece of warehousing and delivery, and that’s where Rick shines. “He’s been with us for over 11 years and is absolutely terrific,” Eileen enthuses, “and he’s complemented by Brendan. These guys aren’t huge, but, boy, are they strong!” Adding the color, flavor, and fun to this diversified group is Vinny. “Vinny does it all. He’s here three days a week, and whatever needs to be done, Vinny does.” 

The people and the mantra come first, now it’s time for the furniture. Madison Furniture Barn has furniture for today, furniture you aren’t afraid to LIVE in…this is not your mother or grandmother’s stuff that years ago might have been covered in plastic. “This is good quality,” Eileen says, “but you can use it!” 

Not just a bunch of words, not by a long shot. Madison Furniture Barn chooses its manufacturers with this in mind. They represent a combination of high quality, solid wood, and easy customization like the “worry-free slipcovers.” What a bonus for people who want to truly enjoy their homes and use their furniture. These sofas, gliders, and sectionals have slipcovers that are sewn 20 modularly, so all pieces can fit right in your washing machine. Therefore, if you eat on the sofa while watching TV, or if the dog for whom you paid $2000 in obedience training to stay off the furniture, doesn’t…just remove the slipcover, wash, and put it back on! 

The solid wood, mostly made in North America, encompasses furniture for the living room, dining area, family room, bedroom, media room, office…even your beach house! And there are literally hundreds of fabrics and styles, so you can completely customize what you want, exactly the way you want it in fabric, wood, stain, even choose your level of distressing. 

You probably don’t need another reason to come explore Madison Furniture Barn and meet the cast of “friends,” but here’s another one: there is never a sale…ever. “Doesn’t matter if it’s Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day, whatever the holiday,” says Eileen, “everything is always the same price…always. Occasionally floor models or discontinued pieces are marked down, but that is the only exception.” 

If you’ve never visited Madison Furniture Barn, come see why Eileen Smith and her friends make this like no other furniture buying experience you’ve ever had. It’s old fashioned friendship combined with old fashioned quality workmanship, all designed to let you relax and really LIVE in your house, putting your feet up on the furniture. 

When you come right down to it, the difference between those we thought to be our “besties” 25 years ago and now has little to do with the passage of time, it has to do with the people themselves. Many of those to whom we told everything, the ones we thought would always be there for us, to whom we could confide our deepest thoughts, often turned out to be the shallowest and are long gone. But it’s the friends who stood the test of time that are still around today. They’re the ones who were always there and still are. The ones who are unfailingly honest, sincere, the ones you can count on, the ones Eileen Smith hired and with whom she built Madison Furniture Barn in Westbrook. They’re the people who will welcome you, but not pounce on you, not tag along after you, but will be there when and if you need them…and the ones you’ll come back to again and again because like the wood furniture itself at Madison Furniture Barn, they’re solid.

Go meet the remarkable staff at Madison Furniture Barn. They’re located right in the Westbrook Outlets, just off I-95 Exit 65. (860) 399-7846