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Obituary: Jake Kimmel, founder of Floors to Go

SACRAMENTO, CALIF.—Jacob “Jake” Kimmel, founder of national floor covering franchise Floors To Go, died Sept. 25 of lymphoma and Parkinsons disease. He was 79.

Jacob Hughes Kimmel was born Aug. 8 in 1932 to a hardware store owner and homemaker in Cherokee, Kan. He served four years in the Navy and earned a business degree at Kansas State Teacher’s College.

Kimmel got his start in business as a janitor at a Midwest furniture and flooring store during the 1960s, said his son Jason, who began working with his father in 1978 right out of high school. Impressed with his strong work ethic, a company representative offered Kimmel a job at the Alexander Smith Carpet Co., and by his second year, he was Salesman of the Year.

During that time he got to know Gene Burrick, who had a troubled distributorship in Seattle. “He made a deal that if he took it over and saved the business, he could have the business that had been lost,” Jason told FCNews. “He solved the problem in half the time required and started Northwest Carpet Distributors in 1968.”

After a number of successful years in Seattle, Kimmel sold the distribution operation in 1975, moved to California and opened his first Floors To Go store one year later, featuring carpet, hardwood, area rugs and related products for home improvement. By 1980, he had four stores open and by 1988 he started franchising. In 2001, there were 138 Floors To Go stores but unfortunately he fell ill and was forced to retire, selling the franchise to Abbey Carpet & Floor that year.

“I always loved going to market with him; he had so much energy,” said Jason, who bought his first Floors To Go store in Stockton, Calif. in 1988. “I was a football player and he kept right up with me, even when I was exhausted at the end of the day. My dad would run up and down those aisles and worked his butt off. Everyone who met him said he was the hardest worker they’d ever seen, and that’s why he went so far.”

Kimmel was also very involved in his business, even as top management. “He was very hands-on,” said his wife, Vicque. “As CEO, he’d drive his truck to new franchises and put the samples up himself to see how they’d look in the store.”

Kimmel is survived by his wife, Vicque; daughter, Gina Covert; sons, Jeff, Jason and John; sister Marcella Page; 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of Jake’s life was held Oct. 8, here.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations may be made to the Jake Kimmel Leg Up Legacy Fund.

For information on the fund, call Jason Kimmel at 209.484.8189.