Monday 22 July 2019
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Behind Every Great Daughter, Is A Truly Amazing Dad…. WILEY AND DETRA THOMAS

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Shelia Scott
It is only through “blood, sweat and tears” that a successful business is born. No one knows that better than Wiley Thomas. Wiley is a Springfield native and is married to Claudette Thomas. He is the founder of Wiley’s Home Center, a notable staple in the Rincon community for nearly 32 years.  Wiley, a navy veteran, had worked in the home furnishings industry for almost 20 years before starting his own business; therefore, it was a quite “natural” thing to do.
Wiley feels that one of his most meaningful accomplishments was when his daughter Detra was born to he and his late wife Rosalyn, his wife of 54 years, who played an instrumental role in every stage of the business’ development and success prior to her death in 2015. Detra and Wiley have always shared a phenomenal bond, one encompassing extraordinary love, respect and mutual support. Actually, the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree in this case, as Wiley has always been Detra’s mentor; she has proudly followed his lead and example for most of her life. Her father’s tremendous work ethic, tireless commitment, sincerity, kindness and overall principles have always intrigued her.
Though Detra had earned a teaching degree upon graduating from college, she was drawn into the business with her dad and has been there since day one. She has felt privileged to have the opportunity to work alongside the man she has looked up to her entire life. The two became co-owners in 2004. Detra acquired her dad’s role as president of the business at that time. Wiley could not have been more thrilled, and he still appreciates all the value that Detra adds to the business. He is elated that he has been able to work with his daughter all these years.
“I love it. I know she can run the business and do anything that needs to be done. She’s very good at what she does. I don’t have to worry about trusting her; I trust her to do anything that needs to be done,” Wiley stated. He is confident that the business has a “bright future” under Detra’s leadership.
Detra was experienced in successfully handling every aspect of the business already. After specializing in sales, purchasing, inventory and other daily tasks for many years, she was already thoroughly knowledgeable about running the business even before she officially took over as president; it was very easy for her to assume the title.
“It was an easy transition because I had been doing the same thing for a long time,” she said.
Detra appreciates the incredible role that her dad has always played in her life as a father, a friend and even a business leader. She has felt very blessed to have him as a role model. Detra accredits his character, attributes and remarkable example to the person she is today.
In a sincere and tearful moment, she asserted, “I have some big shoes to fill. He’s gentle. He’s generous. He’s kind. He has run this business for 31 years without raising his voice at anybody; you can’t say that about many bosses. Actually he’s not a boss, he’s a leader. He has never said a cross word to me. He’s the best example of a father and a leader that I could have ever asked for.”
Detra knows all the work her dad put into the business over the years…all the meaningful sacrifices. After all, her dad built the business “from the mud up,” diligently bringing his vision into fruition through every challenge…through every complication. In her eyes, his efforts were unmatchable. She has always seen her dad lead his entire team with both gentleness and strength.
“That’s why I’m driven to do what I can because of what he has done through blood, sweat and tears. He has worked hard, and I don’t want to lose that for him—that’s the driving force. It makes you proud to see where we were and where we are. I want to see it continue to thrive. This is my baby; I love it too,” Detra stated.
Detra feels that the biggest advantage of having the family business is just “being able to work together” with her dad and see him each day. She is thankful that she has been able to take the load off of him, allowing him to often focus his attention where it is deserved—on customers. Detra is happy to see her dad reap the rewards of years and years of hard work and dedication.
“Now he can just come and go as he pleases,” she joked.
Wiley believes in building quality relationships with customers about just as much as he believes in selling quality furniture and appliances. Detra admits that he “enjoys the customers.”
“I made a lot of good friendships in here,” Wiley said.
The two agree that their faith in Jesus Christ has everything to do with where they are today. They know that they would not have made it personally or professionally without His guidance…without His grace. Wiley himself feels that The Lord has been “amazing.” Both know that He has tremendously blessed their lives and their business throughout the years.
“We put our faith a lot into this business,” Detra stated.
Wiley agrees and also feels that there is no other way that their business can truly flourish.
“The Lord takes care of us; there are stories that I can tell,” Wiley added.
This truth is exemplified by the way that Detra and Wiley conduct business and also treat others, including their employees. Actually, they are not merely employees to them; they are so much more.
“There is no way we could’ve possibly done it without all the great employees that we’ve had; they’re family too,” Detra remarked.
The father-daughter duo knows that having amicable and sound relationships with the entire team has established a solid business foundation over the years, one that has allowed the business to prosper and grow.
“We interact with our employees every day. Good employees are the answer to any good business,” Wiley said.
The team has a great amount of appreciation and admiration for both Detra and Wiley. They do not view them as bosses, but as family, and can attest to the noteworthy character traits that each of them has exemplified. They are grateful for the atmosphere that has been established over the years—one that is value-driven, encompassing kindness, consideration and respect.
Peggy Kessler has been a part of the team for 29 years. Though she is skilled in various aspects of the business, her primary role is accounting. She has seen, first-hand, the way in which the
co-owners run the business and feels that it is nothing short of impressive.
“They are Christian people. You can’t work for anybody better than somebody who believes in God—that sets the base for everything. They get along very well. It’s good to be in a family business because they take care of whatever is needed on a personal level; you’re not just a number. They’ve been good to me; I’ve tried to be good back,” Peggy said. She even remembered the concern and compassion that Wiley showed her when both her mom and dad were ill some time ago. He allowed her to have a very flexible schedule that enabled her to assist her parents when needed.
She recalled, “My mama and daddy were both sick. Mr. Wiley said, ‘take care of your family first.’” Peggy appreciates that to this day.
Debbie Wilson, a salesperson who joined the team about 1 ½ years ago, agrees that Detra and Wiley treat the team like family.
“I love to work here. They’re great and easy to talk to. They make time for their employees. They’re trustworthy and very honest. They’re Christians; that makes a difference to me…a big difference. They realize that we all have families; I really appreciate that,” she said.
Brian Short, one of the store’s primary vendors, has been working with Detra and Wiley since the business first started.
“They’re my friends. We’ve been doing business for a long time. This is the relationship that you hope to get: a connection between the person and the soul of the business. Both dad and daughter are committed to the business,” Brian stated.
Wiley and Detra are grateful for all the support of their family, friends and community over the years. Moreover, Wiley is genuinely thankful to have his wife Claudette stand by his side.
It is obvious that Detra Thomas and Wiley Thomas share more than just a familial bond and last name. They share the core values, character and work ethic that has molded them into the people they are today. The future looks bright for Wiley’s Home Center under the leadership of Detra Thomas, understanding that “behind every great daughter is a truly amazing dad.”