Brook and Amy Dubman were just barely more than kids when we started seeing them on TV commercials: They've practically grown up before our eyes. The brother-and-sister team are co-owners of Carol House Furniture—and because of those commercials, they’re two of the most recognizable business people in town.
“My dad had the idea to put me in the commercials because he was shy in front of the camera—he would get stiff and sweat,” remembers Brook, whose first commercial came at age 19 in 1989 (younger sister Amy started appearing at age 23). “I was a face and a personality, but we really wanted the viewers to understand this was a family business,” he says.
A common theme of the early TV spots was that while Dad was out of town buying furniture, the kids would take over the store and cut prices, trying to outdo each other. But Amy wants to set the record straight. “I don’t think I have the personality for sales,” she declares. “I do much better in the administration end of the business—so there’s not a great rivalry.” Brook agrees, saying he is much more involved in the sales aspect of the business; while Amy, in addition to administration, oversees marketing and accessory inventory.
Still, Brook says those commercials have given the siblings a lot to laugh about over the years. “The way I’m able to keep her happy is to let her make fun of me in the commercials!”
While advertising certainly has played a significant role in the growth of the business, it was their dad who laid the foundation. ‘Nat’ Dubman was a young boy who fled Poland with his family in 1939, just before the Nazis began their torment of Polish Jews. Nat started Carol House in Valley Park in 1964, and opened the larger warehouse store in Maryland Heights in 1983.
Nat passed away in 2001, but his legacy most definitely lives on. “He expected the best out of us, and he was an excellent example of how to treat customers and employees—everyone was an equal to him,” Amy says.
Carol House has survived floods, a tornado, fires and economic recession. But Brook proudly says that despite the most recent economic downturn, the company never had to lay off any employees. It now has more than 145 workers and is expanding again. A total renovation and expansion of the Valley Park store will be unveiled in the coming weeks. Brook says the updated store will be the showcase location for Carol House. “In the past, when somebody drove by there, they saw a small, dumpy-looking old store. They didn't realize it was so big," he says. "Now, when you see it, you can tell it’s the nicest place in town.”
While it was their dad who led them into business; it was Mom, Julie, who has helped Brook and Amy find a passion for their other ongoing commitment: animal welfare—whether it’s pet overpopulation, the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms, or unnecessary animal experimentation. Brook says his mother still picks up stray animals, takes them to the vet, gives them foster care and then finds them good homes. Amy agrees, saying their mom has always loved animals. “In the beginning, my mom didn't know much about the problems, but then she started to see literature that talked about all kinds of issues going on in the animal industry—once you read about the cruelty and learn about it, you just naturally care.”
For his part, Brook says he feels compelled to do what he can to help eliminate the unnecessary suffering of animals. “My entire immediate family shares the same animal welfare philosophies, and this makes it easy to incorporate these ethics into our business.”
Because of this commitment, Carol House no longer sells leather furniture, which, at one point, made up 10 percent of the company’s sales revenue. The family is active in many local and national animal protective groups; and Brook is on the board of directors of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, which pushed through laws to crack down on puppy mills. The Dubmans also have been instrumental in opening the Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic, the only nonprofit spay-and-neuter pet clinic in the region.
Fortunately, many Carol House employees are on board with the family’s philosophy. “We have quite a few who are willing to go out of their way to help animals,” Brook says. “And most of the rest of our employees appreciate our ethics knowing we put our money where our mouth is. And, we are always happy to hear that the majority of our customers appreciate it, too.”
A native St. Louisan, Paul Brown is a lifelong journalist, and previously served as a broadcaster for KMOX and KTRS radios and ABC 30. His Paul Brown Media specializes in public and media relations.