Slain businessman had long history

Published 10:04 pm Monday, September 22, 2014

The victim of Monday morning’s fatal shooting on East Washington Street was one of the longest-serving businessmen in downtown Suffolk.

Donald Carter opened Carter Furniture with his brother Larry in the fall of 1958 — about 56 years ago — according to a history of the store on its website.

In August 1983, Carter Furniture purchased a large building across the street and opened a warehouse showroom.

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Rare was the home in Western Tidewater or North Carolina that didn’t own furniture or appliances that came from Carter’s.

“It’s hard to find somebody that doesn’t have a piece of furniture from Carter’s,” businessman and former Suffolk mayor Andy Damiani said.

Donald Carter’s nephew, Brett Carter, said his grandfather started the family business in the 1940s. Many people were customers over the years.

“I have had many people come to me and say, ‘Your uncle sold me furniture, and my mom furniture, and their mom and dad furniture’ — three generations,” Brett Carter said.

There used to be a time when downtown Suffolk was the furniture-shopping destination for Western Tidewater and North Carolina, with at least eight furniture stores along East Washington Street in what Damiani called “furniture row.”

“People came here to do that kind of shopping,” Damiani said, noting that Carter Furniture started out of a pickup truck. “Downtown Suffolk was a hub, and Carter Furniture was the hub for the furniture business.”

Damiani said Donald Carter was one of the leaders of the downtown business community. Carter’s Furniture participated in several Tidewater Builders Association Homearama events throughout the years, helping to outfit the homes with the latest styles. The store is set to participate again in this year’s show in Bennett’s Creek, according to its website.

“He was probably the oldest person — not in age, but in duration of running a business” in downtown, Damiani said. “He was an ‘old-time’ person — the customer comes first and all.”

“We’ll miss Don,” Damiani added. “This is a tragic way to end a life.”