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February 22, 2020
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Larry Phan, Living the American Dream

By: Lanny Lowery
September 13, 2019

“I love America!” sums up Larry Phan’s feelings for his adopted country.  Owner and manager of Valley Furniture in Rohnert Park since 1994, Phan is quick to talk about patriotism, work ethics and the importance of family and friends.

Born in Vietnam in 1953, Phan immigrated to the United States as a young man in his late twenties in 1982 escaping from the Communists.  He says, “Americans treated us nice!”  And he shows his life in this country as proof that the American dream is alive and well.  “There was and is good opportunity here in this country.  I am lucky to live here.”

After Phan arrived in the San Jose area, he began studies at Mission College.  He later attended Santa Clara University and the University of California at Berkeley.  He graduated with a double degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1985.

He went to work for Gould Electronic Company but after two years he returned to San Jose.  There he went to work for Charlie Nguyen who owned United Furniture.  Phan started at the bottom working as a driver, deliveryman and warehouseman.  In a couple of months, he was promoted to sales.

Nguyen expanded his business to fourteen stores in the greater bay area.  In 1988 he sent Larry Phan to the Santa Rosa store where he worked for five years.  Then he had him open the Rohnert Park store.  Phan bought the store from Nguyen in 1994.

His family has a strong work ethic.  Nguyen recognized Phan’s hard work and intelligence.  

Phan’s business has done well the past twenty-five years.  He employs 12 workers who are either in sales or delivery.  Phan expects everyone to multitask and be able to do all of the jobs.  He believes this is the best way to know the furniture business.

Phan has some key beliefs regarding the furniture store and its employees.  “Doing business and making business means that we have to be truthful.”  He knows that loyalty to customers pays off in the long run.

One of the ways that Phan competes with other stores is by providing speedy deliveries.  “To compete we must have quick service.  Customers must not be wondering when their furniture will arrive or worrying about where their furniture is.”  Same day delivery is the ultimate goal.

Furniture business is cyclical.  Summer months are slow.  The best selling periods are Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend along with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But there is always plenty of work at the store, studying furniture trends and attending furniture shows.

Phan is too busy to get in much traveling.  But he does enjoy his home and his family.  He likes to work in his garden and with his fruit trees and with his chickens.  He has visited Vietnam but not in the past five years.

Business travel entails heading to Las Vegas or Highpoint, North Carolina.  He prefers Las Vegas because it is closer.  He looks at furniture shows as well as trade magazines to keep up on the latest interests in furniture.  The shabby look is in these days and, of course, there is a high demand for recliners.  It’s important to know what the younger generations like.

Often selecting furniture from wholesalers means taking big chances.  Once Phan purchases new items, he is committed to sell them.  And this means that sometimes he faces losses.  Taking chances has not made Phan rich.  And yet he has no regrets in being in the furniture business.

Phan has been married for twenty-eight years and has four children.  Two daughters, Angela and Vivian, are grown up and living on their own.  His sixteen-year-old daughter, Julie, attends Rancho Cotate High School and is in the eleventh grade.  She plays tennis and the flute in the marching band.  She is also the class treasurer.  His son, James, an eighth grader, loves to read.  Phan buys him three books at a time with the stipulation that one of the books must be nonfiction.  Phan has not allowed television at home for five years as he promotes reading.

Phan also loves to play tennis and be involved with organizations that promote his culture.  “It’s fun and a lot of work.”

As for the future, Phan speculates that he may travel to Australia to visit friends.  But he does not envision retirement.  Emphatically, he insists, “I’ll work until I cannot work.  Why stay home and do nothing?”  Larry Phan truly lives the American dream having a successful business, a wonderful family and home in Cotati and activities to keep him physically healthy and interests that involve his culture.  Indeed, he inspires us all when he says, “I love America!”