It’s been through a world war, drought and the Great Depression, more than 15 different presidential administrations, and the first man walking on the moon. Since 1919, Carroll’s Furniture has been a fixture in Sheridan, and this month the family celebrates 90 years in business. Amid elegant sofas, cozy overstuffed chairs, fashionable lamps, and beautifully framed pictures, Robert B. “Bob” Carroll, wife Sally and son Chris shared the history of the family that established the Sheridan furniture store. As the three sit and reminisce, Bob Carroll is distracted by a stained glass window positioned on a solid wall. “We need to move that where the sun can hit it,” he says. Chris Carroll explains it is a temporary location and the two discuss the best placement. They can’t help it. Home furnishing is just in their blood. The three explained that Carroll’s Furniture founder Robert E. “Bob” Carroll started the business after sensing a need to assist the growing population in Sheridan.
Men were returning home from World War I and needed to equip their homes with furnishings. Along with friend Bob Thirlwell, the two partnered to open “Bob’s Place,” a furniture store in the old Kirby Opera House on the northeast corner of Gould and Brundage streets. “That partnership was the beginning of Carroll’s Furniture,” Sally Carroll said. She said the two trucked furniture from Butte, Montana, stacking chairs and tables, cupboards and other items to meet the growing needs of Sheridan residents. “Bob’s Place” later moved to Carroll’s Furniture’s current location (340 N. Main St.), where the business began taking in livestock, buggies, wagons, saddles and other items in trade. Behind the store, a barn and corral housed the unusual items.
In 1925, Robert E. Carroll purchased Thirwell’s interest and renamed the store “Carroll’s.” His sons, Clifford and Bill, worked in the store, wielding a duster, broom or mop after school. As they grew, their father took them to wholesale marts and markets to learn the purchasing end of the business, “the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts of the purchasing,” the family’s 1996 Family Reunion memories book states. In 1931, Robert E. Carroll suffered a health setback, and Clifford Carroll returned from the University of Wyoming to take over management duties under his father’s guidance. It would become a 52-year career for him. Clifford Carroll’s brother, Bill, joined the business for a time after returning home from World War II. A favorite family story is of Clifford Carroll discovering nine hungry goats wreaking havoc in his office one afternoon. After that, the “We buy, sell, or trade anything” policy ended and the barn and corral became a thing of the past.
In 1959, Clifford Carroll’s oldest son, Robert B. “Bob” Carroll, returned from the Navy anxious to be the third generation to work in the store. His future wife, Sally, was employed at the store doing secretarial work. Carroll’s Furniture underwent a grand remodeling in the mid-’60s that included purchasing the old Rainbow Bar location. “Guys were sitting at the bar drinking,” Robert B. Carroll said. “As they rolled the bar down the sidewalk to its new location (264 N. Main St.), those guys never missed a lick.”Locals flocked to the annual spring open house in April 1967 to view “masterpieces of craftsmanship and an inventory of newly purchased items from a furniture mart,” the family album states. A week later, April 29, Clifford Carroll had his picture taken turning back the hands on a grandfather clock, a photo that would appear in The Sheridan Press to mark the beginning of daylight saving time. That same evening, malfunctioning fluorescent lights in the basement ignited a blaze that would completely destroy the store. Seventy to 80 volunteers and local fireman battled the blaze, but the store was a complete loss. “The Carroll brothers announced they would rebuild,” said Sally Carroll. And rebuild they did.
On March 21, 1968, the new 21,500-square-foot store incorporating fireproof concrete floors and ceilings was visited by thousands during a three-day open house. Bill Carroll retired in 1973, and Clifford Carroll continued in the business a few more years, finally retiring after more than 65 years. Robert B. Carroll took the reins, and after 41 years, he retired in 2000.Fourth-generation Chris Carroll, who said he started his career dusting furniture in the store at age 13, now manages the business. Helping the Carrolls carry on their family tradition are office managers Chris and Chuck Magera, sales associates Susan Abbott and Kenle Barnes-Sonderby, and delivery driver Matt Fitzgerald.