JD Rosella: Who Needs a Hobby When You Love to Go to Work?

Longtime BrandSource member JD Rosella receives an AVB Appreciation Award from Southwest region president Tony Brocato, left, and region manager Tim Clements.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

When the Southeast Region held its annual planning meeting last month in Tunica, Miss., the event was highlighted by a tribute to longtime AVB/BrandSource member and octogenarian JD Rosella. Rosella, principal of Factory Furniture, was cited for his many years of service both to his region and to the group, having served in one capacity or another for 30 years.

Southeast region manager Tim Clements said the accolades Rosella received were well deserved, as he has rarely missed a meeting and has given much to the organization.

“JD was ecstatic,” Clements said, “and was truly appreciative of the tributes from our board members.”

Clements knows Rosella well, having worked with him since he became a member three decades ago. “He is a colorful character,” the region manager shared. “He is very smart, well respected, and remembers everyone and everything.”

Rosella attributes at least some of those smarts to the “super dose” of know-how he gleaned from serving on boards and attending group shows and conferences. “I could not have made it without the knowledge I derived from being a part of BrandSource,” he said.

Indeed, Rosella takes advantage of every opportunity to learn something new to elevate his Greenville, Miss., store. His strategy: To take home one idea from every show or meeting that can be incorporated into his business to make more money. “You don’t want to take three or four back because you likely will never do any of them,” he explained. “And sometimes the best ideas come from other dealers.”

Rosella at a recent BrandSource Convention in Las Vegas

The approach is clearly working. His local market supported 28 independents when he first started out; now, Rosella and his brother are the last two standing, and Factory Furniture dominates their relatively rural trading area with a furniture and appliance business that spans 150,000 square feet of retail and warehouse space. But Rosella won’t take credit for the consolidation. “They put themselves out of business,” he quipped, although his huge inventory, smart buys and “razor-sharp” pricing helped keep Factory Furniture a step ahead of the competition.

Rosella bought a $104 round-trip ticket to Havana in 1957 and set out on a 3-hour flight on a TWA DC-6 with little money and even less of a plan.

Rosella’s smarts also kept him one step ahead of danger, as he relayed in a tale about his younger wanderlust days. Just 19 years old and on a getaway trip to New Orleans with one of his buddies, the two made a spur-of-the-moment pact to continue their French Quarter junket on to, of all places, 1957 Cuba. As they were about to embark on their epic journey, his friend came to his senses (more likely sobered up) and backed out. Undeterred, Rosella continued the trip solo.

After a few days of living large in Havana and all but tapped out of money, Rosella figured his best exit strategy would be to ask his dad for help squaring up his bill and getting him home. But his father balked at bailing him out, insisting JD figure his own way out of the mess he got himself into.

Rosella found himself stuck in Havana as the Castro revolution closed in.

Pondering his next move, Rosella began to hear what he thought were firecrackers in the distance. He went down to the front desk of his hotel to ask what was going on and was informed that Cuba’s president, Fulgencio Batista, had just fled the country, and that Fidel Castro and his rebels were descending upon the city. At that point he realized that “I had to get out; I did not want to be in the middle of a revolution.” He tried to slip out and head to the airport, but the hotel seized his luggage in light of his unpaid bill. As the gunfire got louder, he thought fast and came up with a scheme to forge a blank “counter check,” written on behalf of someone else, to get the hotel to release his belongings and allow him to leave. Ultimately he was able to flee before the rebels overran the city, and left with the shirt on his back and one helluva great story.

Now at 82 years young, one might think that JD would consider slowing down or doing something else. Think again. He still shows up for work six days a week, as he has since his Havana days. But he uses the term “work” loosely, as there’s nothing he would rather do than come to the store and dive into the day’s business and doesn’t consider that work in the conventional sense. “I like this business and I don’t have any hobbies, so why not come in and have at it?” he said. And when people ask him, as they often do, when he plans on retiring, he simply replies, “I don’t even know the definition of work, so how can I retire from it?”

Rosella attributes his longevity to living good, eating right and not letting the day-to-day stress get to him. He also abides by a doctrine that his Asian business partners imparted many years ago: “Every step counts, every minute counts.” By our account, JD hasn’t wasted a single step or minute.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, home furnishings and CE dealers.