In 1981, Alyse Sprintz and her husband Charles, with about $1,000 in cash, opened the first Sprintz furniture store in a former grocery store that was slated for demolition. With three children and no real funds to buy inventory, they risked everything to start their business. Alyse and Charles were hopeful that by offering the best prices in town, customers would support them. And, they did — as witnessed by the mega Sprintz Furniture store located on White Bridge Road. But the journey wasn’t easy. The couple had one car, a moped and a pantry stocked with tuna fish. Soon after opening their first store, they learned from the city that they had to move, due to the construction of the White Bridge Road corridor. Even with all of the obstacles presented to them, they forged on.
It was Alyse who intuitively understood what customers wanted, especially women. She knew women wanted lots of choices, so she invested in a huge selection of fabrics and accessories. She also knew that good salespeople with an eye for design were critical to the success of the business. Most importantly, Sprintz is a family affair, and her love of family fueled the business to where it is today. It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Alyse Sprintz, the grand dame of the furniture business in Nashville.
Sprintz has been an institution in Nashville since 1981. Can you share with our readers how the business started?
My husband Charles had been in the furniture business and wanted a store of his own. We opened with limited funds at the old location of the Kroger in Belle Meade where the White Bridge overpass is now. We had no inventory because of our financial challenges, so we had to give them a reason to shop with us — the lowest prices in town. It worked then, and it works now.
Soon after, we were told by the city that we had to move due to the construction of the bridge. One day Charles Hawkins, who owned Charles Hawkins Company, came in to buy a lamp for his wife, and I said after learning he was in real estate, “I need a piece of dirt between here and Vanderbilt to build a store.” Our current location on White Bridge Road is the location he found for us.
You were instrumental in bringing a personal feel to the store based on your eye for design. Your daugher Wendy reflects fondly on your shopping trips for accessories and art. Can you elaborate on why this has made Sprintz so special?
My parents were in the furniture business and one of our interior designers quit. I was asked to sub in and had no idea what I was doing. When asked, “Where should this go?” I gave it my best shot. Truly, I learned by the seat of my pants. I remember someone used the phrase, “Open to buy,” and I chimed in, “I am always open to buy.” If you know the term, I got it wrong. However, I always had an eye for things that were unique and added the special touch to complete the room.
The furniture business has changed dramatically with increased internet sales and large chains coming into the marketplace. Why is it important to support your local furniture store?
At Sprintz, we have trained salespeople and interior decorators who can help guide our clients to make wise decisions. The customers can sit on the couches, see the quality of the wood finishes and selection of fabrics. Since everyone wants immediate gratification, we keep a big inventory with new items added to our floor everyday.
What advice do you have for the young couple with a new home and limited funds for furnishings?
Have a salesperson help you with a plan so that you don’t end up with random items. Once they find themselves more financially stable, they purchase other items on the plan. Once the plan is completed, it will look great, I promise!
Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to interior decorating as it relates to furniture?
People buying one item, then trying to decorate around it. It rarely results in anything but an unnecessary expense.
Do you ever get tired of seeing your son on television? And with the success of Escape Day Spa and Salon, I am seeing your daughter Tami, too!
Each time I see either one of them, my heart sings. I am so proud that they are both good business people with a great deal of success in Nashville. I am equally awed at how warm, caring and thoughtful they are. Our oldest daughter, Wendy, heads up our outside interior designer program. She moved her from Atlanta several years ago and does a fantastic job in that division of Sprintz.
What is a valuable piece of advice have you been given?
When you go into business, surround yourself with the best professionals you can find — i.e. a lawyer and accountant. I have a funny story about the early days of the business. I ran into Joe Kraft (one of the best known accountants in Nashville) and said to him, “ Joe, we don’t have any money so I can’t afford you, but I know you’re the best.” I will never forget his response. He said, “Alyse, I will work for you for free, but when you can pay, I get it all back.” He worked for us for years.
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
What meal at a local restaurant has recently wowed you the most?
Dinner at Answer, the new restaurant in Sylvan Park. The restaurant has a wonderful atmosphere and delicious food. On a recent visit, I ordered the avocado and crab meat toast and the trout. Everything was cooked to perfection.
What books are on your bedside table?
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Florence, Italy. The people are lovely, the food fantastic, and you can walk everywhere. The train system allows you to go everywhere.
Is there something our readers would be surprised to know about you?
When I had three small children, I got my masters degree in special education with an emphasis on teacher training. I ran the Hickory Valley School, which was located in Hillwood Presbyterian Church. Hickory Valley School focused on children with learning differences. Something I am exceptionally proud of is that Alice Mathews and I co-authored a book, Relationships, Discovering the Missing Links. As the introduction says, “In our busy lives, we rarely take time to evaluate our goals and the relationships that are important to us.” Richard Courtney with Eggman Publishing published the book in 1994.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?
My dog Brie, golf (Fun fact: Alyse has had two hole-in-ones), and ice cream.
Thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the beautiful photos of Alyse!
Our newest FACE of TriStar, Kristin Zbozien, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 32 years old — and while 25 weeks pregnant. She was proactive in her treatment, and today, she — and her daughter — are healthy! CLICK HERE to read her brave story.