Office furniture pitchman knows how to survive

Stepping into the second drawer of a filing cabinet, Charles Larrick is completely unafraid as he talks about his business.

The 84-year-old office furniture pitchman has done this hundreds of times to demonstrate to customers the filing cabinet’s strength and how much paper it can hold.

Larrick, owner of Uniques Unlimited on 2661 S. Dixie Drive and Larrick’s Warehouse on 23 Mackoil Ave., knows how to keep a business going. When locally-owned office supply stores began to close with the advent of big box stores like Office Depot and Staples, Larrick’s companies survived.

He says his success is due to hard work, but mostly his ability to adapt.

”It’s not the smart that succeed, it’s not the strongest that succeed, it’s the people that adapt. Plus we’re just better,” Larrick said.

His office employees say Larrick is always willing to change, and never shrinks from a challenge.

“One of the unique things Charles gives us is the opportunity to grow,” said Chuck Clevell, Larrick’s ad manager. “He gives us an apprenticeship and we learn every day.”

Larrick buys used office furniture from closed Dayton businesses and damaged boxes of desks from big box stores by the truckload.

People in the Dayton area know him for his radio ads, usually with promises of huge sales. Larrick writes the scripts for his own radio ads, with help from Clevell. He said he attracts 30-40 people from a radio ad.

“All ads are done by Charles. He writes ads for radio, lays out the ads, and uses up whole rolls of double sided tape,” Office manger Steve Backhaus said.

Larrick graduated from Bellbrook High School in 1949 and has been married to his wife, Dorothy, for 60 years.

Before becoming a business owner, Larrick worked at General Motors for 17 years as an electrician and two years as an engineer. He started a business in the basement of his father’s home at age 27, in partnership with his father, Estel Larrick, who passed away in 1966.

After his father’s death, he bought a 2,800-square-feet building on Mackoil Avenue that eventually became the site of Larrick’s Warehouse. He first sold tube testers for TV’s, then Panasonic car radios, becoming the number one seller of car radios in the world. Because of his success, Larrick said Panasonic sent him to Japan to teach the Japanese about how Americans think.

Larrick sold Larrick’s Warehouse to a group of investors in 1984, but kept the property. The company changed to an office warehouse company. When the company went broke in 1986, Larrick took it back over and began his career as an office furniture salesman.

“I’ve always wheeled and dealed and traded and swapped,” Larrick said. “I’ve had so much fun in life there ought to be a law.”

Turning 80 didn’t change Larrick. He still works 70 hours a week and doesn’t plan to stop.