By Deb Silverthorn
Sunnyland Outdoor Living’s Klausner and Schweig families have had “what you’re looking for” for 52 years. On Nov. 2, Sunnyland was named one of the 2022 Dallas 100™ ranking of fastest-growing privately held companies by the SMU Cox Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship. The North Dallas staple, with a second location in Frisco, has been carried by three generations who never forget family is No. 1.
“Working with family requires a unique form of checks and balances and the ability to separate business from family. At Shabbat dinner, or a family gathering, we rarely mixed business,” said David Schweig, Sunnyland president.
Three generations of the family have led Sunnyland including the Klausners, of blessed memory, who bought the store in 1977 from Pearl Klausner’s family, which owned Freed Furniture Co., of which Aaron Klausner was — and remained — a partner. The Schweigs purchased the store in 1989. In addition to David, leading the charge are his wife, Debbie, a vice president, and their son, Brad, who came on board years later. The younger Schweig is Sunnyland’s vice president of operations. The store has been at its Coit and Spring Valley Roads location since 1991. In 2019, a location was added outside Stonebriar Centre in Frisco.
David, the son of Helen and Ben and the brother of Jeff, all of blessed memory, is also the brother of Ellie Feldman. A former Monsky BBYO chapter member and graduate of Hillcrest High School, he graduated from North Texas State University (now University of North Texas). Debbie — the sister of Sheila Wolf; Mimi Goldman, of blessed memory; and Judy Feinstein — is a Richardson High School alumna and former Kravitz BBYO member. She graduated from the University of Texas.
The couple married at Congregation Tiferet Israel in March 1977; David, a former manager of Zales’ Corrigan Jewelers, and Debbie, who worked in advertising at the Dallas Times Herald, joined the family business. Their son Adam is a project manager for Estée Lauder and lives in New York. Brad, and his wife, Lauren, remain in Dallas, and the couple are members of Congregation Shearith Israel.
Brad and Lauren, the daughter of Debra and Fred Miller and Barbara Miller and Marty Mintz, met on JDate despite the fact that they both grew up in Dallas. He graduated from J.J. Pearce High School, and she from Richardson High School. They were married in 2012, and they are the parents of Eli and Lucy.
There are many Sunnyland memories for the Schweig family — some of nurture, some by nature.
“When the ice storm hit last year, and our homes lost power, David and I and Brad’s family and that of a neighbor all spent the night sleeping on chaise lounges at the store,” said Debbie. “The kids had a great time doing gymnastics on the outdoor rugs, playing hide and seek, raiding the snack machine and watching movies. It was cold outside, but we were all warm and comfortable.”
During the pandemic, the stores closed for six weeks but were able to continue serving their customer base — many for whom outdoor living became the norm.
“People’s patios were ‘the’ place to be — the only legal place to gather for a long time. For almost two years that’s how we, all of us, were connecting to others,” said Brad. “This is a happy business to be in because people are usually happy when they are buying outdoor furniture, grills, fire pits … whatever it is, it’s usually enhancing a space and they are excited. Whether it’s for a new home or a remodel, it’s usually, even through the pandemic, a joyful time.”
Debbie, who also worked with her parents at Sunnyland, says it is important to have the viewpoint of different generations as the family business evolves.
“Brad was integral in our adding a second location in Frisco. He is involved in everything from the administrative and purchasing to the website design and even unloading trucks when necessary,” she said.
Bringing their customers joy is most certainly a priority, but knowing that the success of their business helps support many in the community more than satisfies the Freed, then the Klausner and now the Schweig family.
Aaron, who was raised in an Orthodox home in Denver and who met his future wife while visiting the JCC in Dallas, was known as “Rabbi” Klausner in Abilene. For more than 50 years he served as visiting clergy to Temple Mizpah. Although he was never ordained, he and his family would make the nearly six-hour round trip commute for him to lead services and perform weddings and funerals, b’nai mitzvah and baby-namings.
“My father would ‘change hats’ and go from businessman to rabbi,” said Debbie. “Whether it was the family rides to Abilene, Dad leading High Holy Day services or watching my husband and then our sons on the bimah with Dad, there are many wonderful memories.”
The Klausners taught tzedakah by example and were dedicated to many organizations including B’nai Brith Women, Brandeis University, City of Hope, Hadassah, Israel Bonds, Jewish Women International, Tiferet Israel, ZOA and Bnai Zion — many of which honored them.
The family legacy engrained through business and their own time, Sunnyland and its owners have supported the Aaron Family JCC; Community Homes for Adults, Inc.; the Dallas Furniture Bank; and Greene Family Camp. The North Dallas premises were the site of the Dallas Kosher BBQ Championship hosted by Congregation Beth Torah’s Men’s Club.
For Brad, being involved in the Jewish community has always been a priority. He served, with Shelly (LeFevre) Gammieri, as University of North Texas Hillel’s first co-presidents; was a BBYO adviser; and for years has connected with other small and or family businesses as a member of the Jewish Association for Professional Salespeople and the Jewish Business Alliance. Whether it’s supporting Brentfield Elementary’s PTA, the Young Professionals of Congregation Shearith Israel or his and Lauren’s affiliation with Temple Emanu-El, touching others matters to him.
L’dor v’dor, generation four is on its way up by way of Eli and Lucy, who made their Sunnyland debut last year, representing the company in radio ads.
“They were arguing the best dishes to grill, bake or smoke on the Big Green Egg, and if pizza or steak, for dinner on the patio,” laughed Brad, saying the duo has plenty of time to decide on their future careers. “You’d think the business was in their DNA. Actually, it is.”