Richard Hugo is owner of Hugo’s Interiors, located at 3139 Philips Highway North in Jacksonville. The business, started 100 years ago by his grandfather sells furniture but also offers custom upholstery, re-upholstery, custom window treatments and linens and bedding. It provides custom millwork, including cabinets, countertops and banquettes for amenity centers and restaurants. And it has interior decorators on staff.
Hugo’s Interiors is celebrating its centennial this year. Why do you think it has been able to remain successful through a century of ups and downs and evolving markets?
Well, it’s a family business and we keep all our marbles in the same basket, so to speak. And because we do so many different things – we’re not just a furniture store … we’re able to kind of go between different things when the economy goes up and down.
The other main thing is that we’re very, very service-oriented. People appreciate the service that we provide. When somebody buys something from the showroom or purchases something, we can deliver to an exact day and an exact time for the customer, because their time is more important than ours.
And when we re-upholster furniture, we can also re-style it to some extent, the details, because we don’t recover furniture. We don’t put fabric on top of fabric. We take it back to the frame and treat it like a new piece of upholstery.
We’re able to do lots of things, because we build our own frames. We build upholstery here from the ground up. So, the same people that build new upholstery re-upholster the furniture. And the man who does the frames, he can also adjust frames and re-do frames when we re-upholster them for people.
Being a family business, we are very focused on our business, very focused on our clients. And tend to turn a customer into a client because of our service.
You have to have some real craftspeople.
Yes. We train them all. Most of them have been here over 25 years or longer. We train them, and we keep them. Hopefully, everybody’s happy, everybody gets along, gets paid well and all that good stuff.
Tell me about the Hugo family and how the members have kept the tradition going.
My grandfather emigrated from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire after World War I, and he went through New York, of course, and he ended up in Jacksonville, because I believe his sister lived here.
So, he migrated to Jacksonville. Then, he happened to go to Plant City, where my grandmother worked.
He happened to see her in the window sewing hats. Back in the 1920s, you know, they had all these fancy hats. And she knew how to sew. So he could upholster, he could sell and she could sew.
So, there’s the marriage made in heaven, right?
They got married and ended up in Jacksonville.
Originally, we were located in Mrs. Cummer’s Boat House for several months.
Then, they opened up a shop on Riverside Avenue.
They had three sons: George, Edward and Charles. All of them worked within the business. My father was the interior designer-decorator. He went to school in New York. And did projects all over the Southeast. The Breakers Hotel, several large hotels in South Florida in the ‘60s.
And then, he had four children. Three of them worked in the business, which was Edward, Renee and Richard – me. And they’ve all retired, other than me.
What is your greatest source of pride when it comes to Hugo’s Interiors?
I think the legacy of the quality and the service we provide. We very much focus on the customer first and their needs.
We’re customer-driven. And I think the people who come here, hopefully they have a good experience and appreciate what we do and come back many, many times.
We’ve done generational business for families in Jacksonville. We’re on the third or fourth generation of families that live in Jacksonville.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your career. Do you live in Jacksonville?
I have for my whole life. I went to school, too, in New York for interior design.
I came back from New York and just started doing interior design and decorating for clients. And then we added on over the years more retail furniture.
I’m really here to be of service to whatever my customers want. I don’t have a certain look that I do. It’s really what the customer wants. The quality we’ve always had, but it’s really more that they’re looking for. That’s the primary goal: to make sure they’re happy.
Some people want to brand their design. They want a certain look. That’s great. I appreciate all that. But I’ve never looked at this that way. I’ve looked at it as what the customers wants.
What do you like best about living on the First Coast?
It’s the small-town feeling, I guess. You know, I’ve been here my whole life. So, I like North Florida because it is more open. There are more things to do. There are opportunities to get to the beach. The waterways and all that, where in South Florida it’s a little too crowded for me.
And then, our clients are here, and they become good friends over the years.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend my time with my children. None of them are in the house anymore, but every weekend they’ve got something for me to do. So, it’s really more of spending time with them.
I also have a second home in North Carolina. So, I’ve built up a clientele over the years in the western Carolinas. I go up there every five or six weeks, visit some clients and stay at my house for a couple of days and come back.
My wife will tell you, I like to work. Even if we’re closed, I’m still here doing something. That’s just me. I just like what I do.