ROCHELLE – Longtime residents and local business owners Ray and Carolyn Smith have been making an impact in the Rochelle community ever since they first moved to the Hub City as teenagers.
Carolyn’s family moved to Rochelle from Arkansas in 1956, while Ray moved to Rochelle in 1965 at the age of 15. The two were introduced to each other through Carolyn’s best friend, who Ray worked with at the time.
Ray and Carolyn were married in 1969, and they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. Growing up in Rochelle, Ray and his friends did many activities for fun such as playing basketball or driving around in each other’s cars.
“We did a little racing back in the ‘60s, we played basketball at the old high school on Sunday’s and things like that,” Ray said.
“We are still in the car mode too,” Carolyn added.
Ray and Carolyn’s love for classic cars has not gone away, as they are both owners of their own throwback vehicles. Carolyn owns a 1965 Ford Mustang and Ray has a 1970 Dodge Super Bee. They bring their vehicles to car shows, including the annual Lincoln Highway Heritage Festival car show.
Throughout their time living in Rochelle, both Ray and Carolyn have been very involved with making an impact in the community. They have participated in Christmas walks, coached Little League and helped approximately 400 people move into their homes.
“I owned the largest moving company in Ogle County and coached Little League for about 20 years,” Ray said.
“He got to coach his children and his grandchildren,” added Carolyn.
In 1992, Ray and his wife decided they wanted to open a business. Since Ray was already coaching Little League and involved in sports, they decided they were going to buy out the old Woods Sporting Goods store in Byron.
But when they spoke to the owner and tried to work out a deal, they were unable to agree on terms and conditions, so a deal was never met. After the sale did not work out, they saw a building located on Sixth Street in Rochelle, and they decided to open a furniture store there. The idea for the store was inspired by Ray’s father, and Carolyn was all for it because working with furniture is a hobby that she very much enjoys.
“My dad used to go to auctions and he told me that one day, we were going to own a big furniture store,” explained Ray. “He passed away in 1986 and it just stayed on my mind, and when we passed this building we thought this was a great place to start.”
“The only thing I have ever liked doing was rearranging the furniture and decorating,” said Carolyn.
Ray and Carolyn purchased the space for the store in August 1992, and Ray’s New and Used Merchandise officially opened in October 1992. Since the store’s opening, Ray and Carolyn have been operating it six days a week, in the same original location. Ray said he learned from owning a local business that if he honored his customers, they would honor him in return.
“Rochelle is one of the best places you could ever live, the people in the community are the best,” he said. “They have stood behind us for 27 years, we have met some very good friends and we are proud of the community.”
During Ray and Carolyn’s many years of running the business, Troy Arreguin, the son of Mike Arreguin, who owns A.L.M. Fine Cabinetry attached to the furniture store, began helping Ray with his moving company. After helping Ray for a while, he mentioned he would like to get into Ray’s business, and he told Ray to let he and his dad know if Ray was ever looking to sell.
Ray and Carolyn’s business had been open for 27 years, and their original goal when opening the store was to own the business for 30 years. But Troy and his father made Ray and Carolyn an offer they could not refuse.
“I told Troy that the business is just like anything else, if the price is right, anything is for sale,” said Ray. “Then he and his dad came in and made us an offer I didn’t think I could refuse.”
Along with traveling and visiting family, Carolyn said she’s excited to finally have time to enjoy their big house. Once the business is sold, Mike and Troy will change its name to All Things New and Used. The store will be very similar in concept, but will have different items for sale.
While Ray and Carolyn have retirement plans to go to Florida to visit family and spend more time watching their son play baseball at Western Illinois University, they said that selling the business created a lot of mixed emotions. Through the years, Mike has become very familiar with the way Ray and Carolyn ran their store. Ray hopes the community will show support to Mike and the new store, the same way they have done for Ray and Carolyn over the years.
“It hurts,” Ray said. “Not having something you have had for 27 years is definitely going to be strange. The most important thing is that I want the community to back Mike up the way they did for us because he is a nice guy, and to keep the business going.”