SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Augustana’s all time winningest football coach is retiring, but not from coaching.
That was his previous career. Now Jim Heinitz is retiring from the furniture business.
So how did a successful coach end up selling couches and kitchen tables?
Never one to pass up a chance to talk sports, Heinitz, the Chief Executive Officer of Furniture Outlets USA, knows how to size up a former college athlete — who just happens to be shopping in the headquarters’ store in Sioux Falls.
Some were surprised when Heinitz left coaching behind back in 2004. After all, winning records are not easy to come by in college football.
So what would lure a successful coach away from something he loved?
When you begin to understand his friendship with Furniture Mart founder, Bill Hinks, it all starts to make sense.
These two friends met in the early 70’s, playing softball. On the drives to games in Brookings, their love of sports and a mutual respect for one another created a solid base for their friendship and eventual business partnership.
“I don’t know if there are more words I can say except the best of the best,” Hinks said.
“He’s such a great inspiration and motivator,” Heinitz said.
Bill started out selling mobile homes in the early 70’s, then realized how much money he could make by selling the excess furniture that came with the homes.
By 1972 he had his first store and today Furniture Mart is one of the top 40 furniture retailers in the country.
“Bill has truly done what everyone hopes to do, he came to Sioux Falls not sure what he was going to do and he built himself an empire,” Heinitz said.
Over the years, Bill maintained his friendship with Jim and attended Augie’s practices and games.
By 2004, in his mid 50’s, Heinitz felt he’d accomplished everything he could in coaching.
“Bill and I had discussed me coming back to work for him, and it was a great decision–best decision I could have possibly made, I have great admiration for Bill, the company that he was building, he wanted me to be a part of that,” Heinitz said.
Since Jim joined the company, it has grown from 18 to 47 stores. Bill says Jim brings more than just a positive attitude to work.
“He just doesn’t have the ‘no’ thing, everything with Jim is ‘yes’,” Hinks said.
Bill believed Jim’s coaching skills would transfer to the business world. And he was right.
“It’s a great transition into the furniture business, because I didn’t know that much about it but I found there were a lot of similarities. Get the right players, put them in the right spot, let them play you’ll do all right,” Heinitz said.
“He’s actually been around the company three different times– both times something because a call for him to go back to football and be around the young men which is, you know, he just so liked to be a father image, with so many of those athletes and I, we have them stop around here all the time from when they played, I’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of those guys,” Hinks said.
Rest assured, even when Jim walks out of these doors into retirement, the bond between these two men will remain steadfast.
“He’s by far my best friend, always has been and always will be,” Hinks said.
Hienitz won’t be leaving the company entirely. While he’s stepping away from day to day operations, he will remain on the board of directors.