The signs at Kramarski's Quality Furniture in downtown Maple Shade say it all.

To the bare walls.

Henry's last sale.

But there's lots more to the tale. "It's a long story," Henry Kramarski says wryly, walking me through a forest of red-and-white "retirement liquidation" tags.

In matter-of-fact, lightly accented English, he talks about forced labor at 11 under the Nazis, escaping communist-controlled Poland as a stowaway on an American cargo ship in 1947, and working at a Camden furniture store for two decades before opening his own shop in the suburbs.

Kramarski also describes how the furniture business has evolved away from mainly mom-and-pop establishments like his to mega-chains ("everything in there looks the same") where furniture fads and salespeople come and go.

Not so at Kramarski's, an anchor of Maple Shade's business district since 1967.

"Everybody in town has his furniture, and we're really going to miss him," says Lu Valentino, co-owner of the nearby L&S Chocolates.

"My customers hate to see me close," says Kramarski, who turns 80 in November. "They want to know why, why am I retiring. But I can't be here forever."

Time nevertheless seems to stand still at Kramarski's, where the proprietor's paneled office contains an adding machine but no computer. He brings an Old World courtesy, as well as deep knowledge of his products and customers, to the art of selling sofas, end tables, recliners, and tea carts.

"A good salesman never should tell you," Kramarski says. "He's there to guide you."

Like his low-pressure salesmanship, his merchandise is a throwback, too: The solid, sedate furniture one would buy for, say, a front parlor.

"Real wood. Not that pressed stuff," says Kramarski, a grandfather of eight who lives in Margate, N.J., with Mary, his wife of 53 years. She still helps out in the store occasionally.

"I deal in traditional and country," Kramarski adds. "Not too much contemporary - never did."

A native of what was northern Poland until after World War II ("the Russians took it"), Kramarski was working in the Polish port of Gdynia when he and a buddy decided to stow away in the turbine room of the USS Coral Sea.

Discovered while grabbing a smoke outside their hiding place, the two were jailed briefly after the ship docked in Philadelphia. Kramarski then spent 11 months at a detention facility on Ellis Island.

But a social worker who had interviewed him in Philadelphia knew Msgr. Arthur Strenski at St. Joseph's Church in the Whitman Park section of Camden; he, in turn, knew a family willing to sponsor the young man from Baranowicze.

So Kramarski was taken in by the owners of Okulicz Furniture on Mount Ephraim Avenue in Whitman Park, where he learned the business that would become his lifetime livelihood.

Along the way he became a naturalized citizen and served two years in the Army; he opened Kramarski's at 123 E. Main St. in Maple Shade in 1967.

It's been an anchor in the center of town ever since.

"There's very few places selling hard-rock maple these days," says Claudia Sherry, a regular customer visiting the store with her husband, Martin. The retired couple live in Tabernacle and have been shopping at Kramarski's for 30 years.

"You don't even think of going anyplace else," Martin adds.

In addition to the freedom of being his own boss, Kramarski says, his chief reward has been his relationships with customers, particularly, satisfied customers.

"I want to go out of here with a good name. A lot of people don't care what they sell or how they sell as long as they make money, which is wrong. I don't buy that. I look at it two ways. You have to give a little - you can't expect just to take."

Kramarski says he's "got 20 bedrooms" of furniture on the second floor and probably about 2,000 pieces in his remaining inventory. He's not sure when he'll close for good.

But when Kramarski's Quality Furniture goes out of business, more than a mere store will disappear from the South Jersey landscape. A piece of history will, too.

Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or kriordan@phillynews.com