A ‘Mom and Pop’ Turns 50

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

Cahaba Furniture’s Mason Harris tells why he loves Selma

By Jean T. Martin / Selma Times – Journal

A slim black ledger bound in red leather lies on the desk in the glass-enclosed office of Mason Harris, owner and self-styled &uot;working manager&uot; of Cahaba Furniture Company.

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Cahaba Furniture has been a business presence in downtown Selma since 1952. Each month since August 30 of that year a hand-written entry in that ledger certifies sales, profits and, at times, losses.

Other ledgers stacked nearby contain Articles of Incorporation, witnessed by Earl O. Siddens Jr., R.B. Woodfin and Eleanor Woodfin, owners and directors, who invested $10,000 in capital stock, at $100 per share. Fifty shares were held by Siddens and 25 by each of the Woodfins.

Cahaba Furniture opened at 10 Broad Street, stocked furniture, carpets and appliances and became one of downtown Selma’s successful businesses.

In December 1990, Harris, who was then vice president and who had been an employee since 1978, purchased the store and signed on as president and vice president, &uot;because,&uot; he says, &uot;I love Selma and believe in it.&uot;

He was born in the mill village in Selma, near the cigar plant. When he was only 9 months old his father died. A year later his mother remarried and the family moved to Lawley.

Harris attended Maplesville High, home of the famed Red Devils football team, and he signed on with them. At 113 pounds, he recalls, laughing,

&uot;I mostly sat on the bench, but I was in uniform.&uot;

By his graduation, Vietnam was casting its pall over America’s youth. Harris enlisted in July 1961 and was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. When the conflict ended, he came home and found employment at Dan River Mill, located a few miles east of Selma. Next he worked with E.P. Wallace, took marketing classes at Wallace Community College at night and in ’78 came to Cahaba Furniture.

Two years after purchasing the business, disaster struck early on a Sunday morning when air conditioner wiring shorted out in the building. &uot;But I had insurance. I had borrowed money to buy the business, so I decided to stay in business. I will be forever grateful to the customers who stayed with me,&uot; he says.

Just across the street, a building owned by AmSouth Bank was available, so Harris bought it, had it rewired, put it in good shape and re-opened at 17 Broad Street.

His answer: &uot;I like Selma and Dallas County. I like owning a ‘Mom and Pop’ business downtown. We don’t have enough of them now because these big corporations buy them out. But in a business the size of Cahaba Furniture, we can give service. I’m in the finance business and I have to keep my customers satisfied. The money spent in downtown Selma stays in town. The money not being spent here goes out of town.&uot;

But his life is not all business, although he admits &uot;I look forward to Monday and going to work. I like seeing people, meeting people, being downtown.&uot;

A few golf balls lying near his desk testify that he likes to &uot;hit the ball, but I’d hardly call it playing golf.&uot;

He and his wife, Carol Harris, have four adult children, all in Selma, and five stepchildren, mostly living near Selma. Their extended family includes 17 grandchildren and step-grandchildren. The entire group usually gets together at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He is also an active member of Highland United Methodist Church, where he holds a board office, is a song leader and teaches Sunday school. And he is proud to be a Third Degree Master Mason.

His future plans call for staying &uot;right here downtown in Selma.&uot;