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Nebraska Nails Best Regional

Nebraska Furniture Mart has been a regional institution pretty much since 1937, when, as the company tells it, “a tiny Russian immigrant” — Mrs. Rose Blumkin — founded the home furnishings emporium.

Building her business on the simple premise of “Sell cheap and tell the truth,” the beloved “Mrs. B” became a local legend by providing a wide selection and sharp pricing to an underserved market.

Her celebrity grew to national proportions in 1983, when billionaire investor Warren Buffet bought a 90 percent stake in the business, making it the first home furnishings addition to his Berkshire Hathaway holding company.

“Most home furnishings retailers are not attractive investments,” Buffett told TWICE last year. “The return is not very good. It takes good execution, great managers and a lot of people willing to work very hard. The Blumkins showed the way.”

Media attention followed the acquisition, including a profile on the CBS-TV news magazine “60 Minutes” in which correspondent Morley Safer followed the elderly but still hands-on Mrs. B as she raced around the 430,000-square-foot retail complex on a motorized scooter.

Rose continued working at the store until she was 103, but her grandchildren, including CEO Irv Blumkin, president Ron Blumkin and VP Bob Batt, have ably carried on the company’s tradition in her wake.

Following its entry into the Kansas City market in August 2003 with a second, 700,000 square-foot facility, Nebraska Furniture Mart now lays claim to the title of largest volume home furnishings store in the United States. Indeed, the stores now offer an even greater selection of competitively priced furniture, flooring, appliances, consumer electronics and computers, and provide delivery to thousands of communities in the Midwest. “Our goal is to excite, entertain and exceed customer expectations on a daily basis,” the company says.