For most, furniture simply is a place to sit, slumber or gather around for a bite to eat.
But for Rebecca Severns, one might say that a flair for such stationary items is in her blood.
“My parents had a store when I was growing up called Roy’s Furniture,” Rebecca said. “It was named after my dad. They had a little bit of this and little bit of that for the home.”
Rebecca’s mother arrived in Chicago from her native Germany and met and married Rebecca’s father, who was a bus driver at the time. After residing in the Windy City for a year, the couple sought to do something creative to make a little more money.
“So they decided to open a furniture store,” Rebecca said.
More than 60 years later, even though her parents’ business has since been rebuilt after being ravaged by a fire in 2000, Roy’s Furniture continues to proudly stand at the same spot in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, a location known as a hip hub for nightlife, dining and live entertainment.
“At the time, it wasn’t like it is today,” Rebecca said, with a laugh.
The store also has served as a backdrop of inspiration for Rebecca, now 58. After years of tending to her family’s business along with husband Eddie and even running a satellite location in Galena, Ill., for a decade with her sister, Rebecca decided it was time to branch out.
The result is RF2 Furniture Warehouse, which opened in Dubuque’s Historic Millwork District in 2014 and relocated to its new home on Railroad Avenue at the beginning of this year.
“It’s a great place for us,” Rebecca said. “We have a loading dock, which is very important for what we need to do. We’re also next to Spahn & Rose Lumber Co. and Mountaintop Stoneworks. For people working on or needing something for their home, we’re all right there. It’s very convenient.”
RF2 features a variety of both essential items and finishing touches for the home, from couches and sectionals to chairs, tables, desks, buffets and an assortment of decorative items. With splashes of color and tastes appealing to all types, customers can find something modern and quirky or traditional and timeless.
“I like to be able to offer something for everyone,” said Rebecca, who provides the decorative eye for the showroom’s vast and eclectic space. “I like to carry pieces that will have an appeal to a lot of people. But I also like to have that one piece that maybe just one person is looking for and will love.”
Prior to joining the family business as she grew older, Rebecca described a passion for creativity that took hold at a young age.
“I always liked to be creative, playing with colors and paints — that always was my thing,” she said.
And though she didn’t pursue formal training in interior decorating, she did dabble in art and design classes. But something about furniture always was of a special interest.
“I’d go to market for the family business and get so many great ideas and see so many different pieces and different colors,” Rebecca said. “Furniture became something of a passion. I always loved it.”
It’s what Eddie credited with lending Rebecca her natural talent.
“She doesn’t come from any formal training,” he said. “From the time she was 8, she just dove into the family business. It’s great to have that natural ability and talent for it.”
Where Rebecca comes in with her keen eye for style, Eddie offers another perspective.
The couple knew one another in high school and have been married for 31 years — together for 10 years longer than that.
Prior to Eddie and Rebecca teaming up in business as well, he served as a building commissioner under Richard Daley, Chicago’s mayor from 1989 to 2011, first working in the city’s zoning and planning and development departments before taking on a greater role as a part of Daley’s campaign team.
After working for the city for 13 years, Eddie joined the engineering firm responsible for facilitating work on two of Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s newest runways.
“We had two totally different lifestyles in Chicago,” he said. “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so we had our concerns about working together and spending all that time around each other. But it has worked out great. Life has been good.”
In the furniture business, Eddie described his work as “diving under tables” to assess the quality of furniture pieces.
“Rebecca is always looking for that unique style; I’m always looking for the quality to make sure we’re able to offer what we do at a good price point,” he said. “We’re always trying to make sure that the experience we each bring to the business dovetails.”
A new home
Because Rebecca and her sister ran Roy’s Furniture in Galena, when it came to breaking away from the family business she was born into, Rebecca said Dubuque quickly emerged as a natural fit for RF2.
“We had taken many trips to Dubuque and were familiar with Dubuque,” she said. “Eddie had wanted get me to move out of Chicago. He prefers someplace like Dubuque, with it’s wide open spaces, to a bigger city. But I wasn’t ready. There was the family business, and I grew up in the city. But eventually, we decided that it was time for a change. Dubuque made sense for us. It was a big risk, but we took a chance.”
The Historic Millwork District provided the perfect backdrop, offering a similar kind of look and feel to Roy’s Furniture, Rebecca said.
“It reminded me of Chicago, and it evolved just like my parents’ store did in Chicago,” said said. “It was made successful on the idea that we could offer looks that are trendy and furniture that is quality but at a price that people can actually afford. We’ve always seen that as our motto.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, business has been forced to come to a halt at the new location — and only a few months since RF2’s relocation and ahead of what normally is a busy season in the industry. However, Rebecca and Eddie remain optimistic.
“We are launching a new website, working with customers through Facebook and looking at setting up private appointments so that customers have more of an opportunity to find what they want,” Rebecca said. “Dubuque is very supportive of its local business — more so than even Chicago. It’s just amazing to me about this community.”
It’s a resilient spirit that is evident in Rebecca as well and one that Eddie said he always has admired about his beloved.
“I’ve worked side-by-side with her for many years, and I know my place in the system,” he said, with a laugh. “Whenever anybody comes into the store, they always ask, ‘Is Becky around?’ She’s the heart, soul and brains behind the design of the whole place.”
Megan Gloss is the Features Editor for the Telegraph Herald.