After nearly 50 years on the business stage in Selbyville, C&E Furniture will bow out by the end of this year.
The iconic green-and-white 12-showroom shop is revving up for current owner Nancy Winnington’s retirement. Although she has worked at C&E for 30 years, much has changed since the business opened in the mid-1960s.
C&E began as a television and radio repair shop in namesakes Carl and Esther Lekites’ home kitchen in Bethany Beach. After a few months, Esther said, they began renting a small space in Selbyville, and soon thereafter moved to the current C&E location on Route 113.
Esther introduced furniture to the business when she decided to offer customers a waiting area. She furnished an extra room like a den, with furniture and a television. Almost immediately, a man and woman came in, having just built a new house. They like the décor so much that they asked to buy everything. Esther decided to sell the furniture and buy some more, and C&E Furniture was born.
“I always loved it,” Esther said of the shop.
Donald and Jean Selway had recently sold their oceanfront motel in Ocean City, Md., when Esther asked if they would be interested in taking over C&E.
The Selways invited their daughter Nancy Winnington to join the venture, so she left her job as a healthcare administrator in Wilmington, and she and her husband moved to Sussex County.
“So we didn’t know a thing about [furniture] when we got here,” Nancy recalled. In 1981, Esther helped the family settle in, and they learned from the ground up.
In 1984, C&E briefly expanded to a second location in Millsboro, operated by Nancy’s parents, while Nancy and her brother John ran the Selbyville store.
Nancy’s daughters, Katie and Becky, were born soon after the family bought C&E, so they grew up surrounded by furniture and often rode on delivery trucks between the Selbyville and Millsboro locations.
The Selways retired 10 years later, so C&E operations remained in Selbyville, where the store and warehouse expanded to include beach and traditional design styles. The “C” and “E” became associated with the casual and elegant furniture inventory.
“We tried to be everything to everyone, and still are,” Nancy said.
Nancy took sole control of the business around five years ago, when her brother moved to Virginia.
“It’s been a lot of fun over the years,” Nancy said, adding that she enjoyed getting to know customers and helping them find just what they wanted.
The retirement of Selbyville’s C&E isn’t the end of furniture in the family, though. Katie Winnington is considering opening a smaller furniture shop in the future.
Nancy has no major plans for her retirement yet, but she said she would help with her daughter’s own C&E endeavors.
Nancy said the 25,000-square-foot shop is getting older and requires a lot of maintenance.
“It’s not profitable in these times to have a great big furniture store,” she explained.
So after 30 years of home décor, Nancy found this to be a good stopping point.
“A lot of people are coming out of the woodwork,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, no – I can’t believe you’re leaving.’”
Nancy hopes to keep C&E Furniture open until the end of the year, but nothing is concrete.
“I’d just like to thank all our customers over the years, the nice people we met and all employees, past and present,” Nancy said.
C&E’s retirement liquidation sale began last week with huge deals, including 30 percent off sale items and 50 percent off rugs, pictures, lamps and other accessories.
C&E Furniture is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., located just north of the Maryland state line on northbound U.S. Route 113. For more information, call (302) 436-5578 or visit www.CEFurniture.com.