A Brief History of BII

The history of BII, and how it became a household name for commercial office furniture in Idaho, starts, as many stories do, with humble beginnings.

 

The company’s founders, Mark and Betty Heath, both have roots that run deep in the state of Idaho. Mark was born and raised in Lewiston where his family was heavily involved in the lumber industry. He spent many summers and winters working in the local paper mill and learned an incredible work-ethic in the process. Betty grew up about 50 miles southeast, near the rural town of Nezperce on her family’s farm. Coming from a long line of farmers, Betty spent her spare time helping with the livestock, gardening, reading and being active in 4-H.

The two would later meet at the University of Idaho, where they both attended college. Mark would graduate with a degree in Business Marketing, and Betty, who originally started in the Clothing, Textiles, and Design program, would ultimately graduate with a degree in Communications. Shortly after leaving U of I, Mark and Betty got married and would soon start a family that would include two children, Stevie and Jeff.

Mark and Betty moved to Boise and soon realized the need for a full-service commercial furniture dealership in the city. They started Business Interiors of Idaho out of an old Firestone Tire Shop building, located on the corner of 12th and Main. Through 80-hour work weeks and a little ingenuity, the Heaths soon had the business up and running. In those early days, Mark and Betty couldn’t afford enough inventory for both floor models and warehouse stock, so instead, they would unbox the product and then re-tape the boxes to put back on the shelves, giving the appearance of having a large inventory.

Before long, the business had gained enough traction and longstanding customers that Mark and Betty were ready to move into a larger space. Out of a heart to help revitalize the growing Boise downtown, in 1990, they purchased a piece of property on the corner of Capitol Blvd and Grove St, with the intention of constructing a 15,000 square-foot building. The building would anchor one side of the growing Basque Block, which would later be redeveloped with a red and green street and updated landscaping, making it a unique destination for international festivals and tourists to the Boise area.

Newspaper Clipping From 1990 For BII Building
A newspaper clipping from 1990 announcing the construction of the BII building on the corner of Capitol Blvd and Grove Street.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the business developed knowledge of key markets in the Treasure Valley and beyond, including Commercial, Healthcare, Government, and Education. The growth of the valley began to take off, and the business thrived along with it.

Some photos of Betty and Mark during the grand opening of the new BII showroom in 1990.

But times would not be prosperous forever. In 2004, the company would face its greatest challenge to date. Mark suffered a traumatic brain injury through an ATV accident, and it was unclear if he would ever fully recover, let alone be able to run the business. The BII team banded together to keep the company running smoothly while Betty tended to Mark’s recovery. Miraculously, he was able to return to the business six months after the accident.

A few years later, another challenge, the Great Recession, would shake BII to the core. The team managed to weather the storm, delivering on their promises to customers even when they were not easy. Many of the employees who were key factors of the team’s success through this tumultuous time are still with the company today.

In 2015, with retirement approaching and the desire to hand off the business to the next generation, Mark and Betty approached their son, Jeff, with a proposition to move into leadership of the business. At the time, Jeff was building a career in medical sales in Spokane, Washington with no immediate plans of moving home to Boise. After considering the future of BII and its employees, some of whom had known Jeff his whole life, he decided to take on the challenge. His dedication to the company is seen every day as his passion for the employees and the industry continue to transform BII from its local, family roots to a regional brand with a strong community presence in downtown Boise.

Some snapshots from BII life and culture today.

Since Jeff became the company’s leader, BII has experienced record sales and has grown to 25 employees as of 2019. Most importantly, the work-ethic and dedication that Mark and Betty originally brought to the business at its inception in 1985 lives on within every BII team member today. We continue to exist to create culture, build community, and enrich lives in every company that we are lucky enough to partner with.