Monday, June 24, 2024

Harbor Light Furniture: Still a family affair

Reporter | March 7, 2024 12:00 AM

Harbor Light Furniture and Flooring will celebrate a big anniversary this year: 75 years as a Main Street business and 50 years with the Fisher/Whisman family.

Krysty and Rocky Whisman Jr. have been owners of Harbor Light since Rocky’s dad, Rocky Sr., retired Jan. 1, 2024.

Krysty and Rocky are friendly and welcoming, just as people imagine business owners in a small town should be. And they walk the talk. 

“If someone’s washer or dryer breaks down, and they need a replacement right away, we’re here,” Rocky said. 

They deliver, install, and even haul the old appliance away. 

If, due to surgery or a health condition, a customer needs a lift chair, Rocky said they try to prioritize those. 

“If we can fit a delivery in to help somebody, we try to do that,” he said. “It just feels good.” 

Convenience is also a cornerstone of the business. For example, since Harbor Light started carrying appliances about two years ago,“you don’t need to go to Missoula or Kalispell,” Rocky said. 

Although the store has always carried furniture, Krysty noted that they constantly showcase new products. Recliners, lift chairs, sofas, loveseats, end tables and coffee tables, as well as lamps and decorative pieces, abound.

Harbor Light also is the local agent for T-Mobile cell service, offering installations only.

The store has a large selection of Tempur-Sealy mattresses, including Tempur-Pedic, Stearns and Foster, and Sealy, as well as some Ashley products. 

The couple aspires to make Harbor Light the area’s “mattress destination,” Krysty said. Shoppers can visit the mattress gallery, and try several models to scout out the perfect level of firmness. 

The couple strives to create a price point for everyone’s pocketbook with the different brands they carry. Rocky said he tries to keep some leather furniture in stock but also carries couches and loveseats in less expensive fabric upholstery. 

Container shipping helps save money on freight, which in turn keeps prices down for consumers. 

“For a small store we really try to do everything we can to keep prices low and have a good inventory,” Rocky said.

The store is larger than it seems from the street, with the bottom floor housing furniture, appliances and flooring options. DIYers can buy the flooring products, but they also offer installations.  

Krysty says her favorite thing about Harbor Light “is just knowing we can cast a wide net for the community.” She adds that the couple’s family is thriving here and loves Polson. 

“For a small store we really try to do everything we can to keep prices low and have a good inventory,” her husband said. 

Polson’s biggest fire

Jerry Fisher, former owner of Harbor Light Furniture and Flooring and Rocky’s grandfather, remembers the fire that could have ended the business. 

“The store was started in 1949 by Rex McAlear as Midway Furniture,” Fisher wrote.

He began working for McAlear in 1971 and purchased the store in March 1973, changing its name to Jerry’s Midway Furniture and Carpeting. His wife, Pat Fisher, who was educated at the New York School of Interior Design, arranged the displays in the store and also helped customers arrange furniture in their homes. 

Disaster struck when the store burned to the ground in February 1978, in “probably the biggest fire in Polson’s history,” Fisher said.

According to a Flathead Courier story by Paul Fugleberg, the fire siren blew about 6 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, 1978.

”Rolling to the scene were three pumper units and a pickup containing a deluge gun,” wrote Fugelberg.

The wind was negligible, and firemen used a dozen hoses to direct more than 3,000 gallons per minute at the blaze. All in all they pumped 720,000 gallons of water on the fire, but the building was a total loss.

Firemen on top of the Schafer Department Store to the south of Midway, and Dr. Gordon Fisher’s chiropractic clinic north of the store, kept the fire from spreading to those adjacent buildings.

Fisher recalls that a member of their church, Helen Rettig, "was praying for us and felt prompted to tell us there was something in the front of the building that was important," recalls Fisher. "Little did she know that our office was there and in a wooden desk was a cardboard folder with our account receivables. We went into the rubble and started looking and found this folder that was preserved due to all the water that was used. We were able to see the accounts and recover each one."

He said that the 700 Club "thought it was a story worth talking about. They came to Polson and made a film for TV on our fire, so Pat and I were on national TV, as was Polson. 

A new store was rebuilt in the same location with an additional 25 feet in width added. 

“When Polson changed to a nautical theme, we adopted the Harbor Light name,” Fisher recalled.

He eventually sold the store to his daughter, Tammy, and Rocky Whisman in 2000, and Rocky Sr. sold the business to Rocky Jr. and Krysty Jan. 1.

From Midway Furniture to Harbor Light, the business has been an institution on Polson’s Main Street for 75 years, and a family affair for a half century.

    A selection of Harbor Light's furniture and accessories forms a vignette in one of the "piers" at the store. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)

    An art piece of a Scotch Highland cow is one of the paintings and drawings available at Harbor Light Furniture and Flooring. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)
    Rocky Whisman, Jr., points out a Sealy sign in the Mattress Gallery at Harbor Light Furniture and Flooring. (Berl tiskus/Leader)