Sterchi's: The Company


Sterchi Brothers Furniture company originated in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1888.  The Sterchi warehouse was burned in the "Million Dollar Fire" in 1897, which destroyed two city blocks in Knoxville.  Sterchi's built a new warehouse on Gay Street called The Emporium, which still stands today and is registered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to the success of their business, Sterchi's began expansion throughout the southeast. According to Ray Stahl in his book, Greater Johnson City: A Pictorial History, James G. Sterchi bought The Tennessee Furniture Company, owned by S. F. Henderson, at a bankruptcy auction.  In 1910, the J. G. Sterchi Furniture Company opened a store across the street at 222 East Main Street in Johnson City, Tennessee. 

The 1911 Johnson City Directory, housed in the Special Collections of the Archives of Appalachia, has listings for Sterchi's under five separate headings: Coffins and Caskets, Embalmers, Funeral Directors, Furniture, Pianos and Organs.  The listing reads as follows:

STERCHI J G FURNITURE CO, furniture, stoves, carpets, etc, 225 e Main – phone 131, F S Henderson mngr.  Embalmers is listed as 113 e Market.  By 1915, the address is listed as 222-224 e. Main.


Sterchi's was a community oriented and diversified store.  The stationery letterheads advertise the various items and services available: furniture, stoves, carpets, autopianos, and undertakers.   

In 1914, the J. G. Sterchi Furniture Company added its name to the Autopiano Company stationery as the Sole Agents for that company, proudly displaying a print of a large factory in New York with a sign reading "Makers of the Marvelous Autopiano."

A 1922 article from The Johnson City Chronicle states: "On Saturday the ladies of the Loyal Daughters Class of the First Christian Church will have a cake, pie, candy and cookie sale at Sterchi's.  Come in and see our tempting display and make purchases for your Sunday dinner."  


Funeral services were a large part of Sterchi's business.  Coffins, caskets, robes and burial fixtures are advertised on low-key, plain stationery.  There are numerous Western Union telegram and telegraph documents in the J. G. Sterchi scrapbook regarding funeral services and arrangements.  These documents relate specific instructions to customers as to preparation, embalming, and shipping information such as time, destination, and pricing.  In a telegram dated March 30th, 1914, the price was $35 for preparation, embalming and delivery.  Soldier's Home Coffins or Black Broadcloth Caskets were choices given on a telegram dated March 18, 1914, with the Black Broadcloth Casket costing an additional $35.

Western Union Telegrams and Telegraphs may be viewed here:

In the invoice below, from the Clifford A. Maxwell Collection, funeral services and prices are listed.

On April 4, 1984, in The Johnson City Press, Sterchi’s announced they would finally buy the store they had leased on East Main Street for 74 years, and spend $100,000 for improvements. Originally planning to move from downtown, as many businesses were doing, no suitable location could be found.  The article stated that the Johnson City store was one of the top ten producers of the 74 stores based out of Knoxville.  The manager, Bill Sams, was quoted saying they decided "not to quit a winning game."  These articles are from the "Johnson City Press Newsclippings Collection" housed in the Archives of Appalachia.

Sterchi's: The Company