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Random ramblings from the road

April is in the rear view mirror. The Kentucky Derby has been run. I can smell Memorial Day weekend, which means summer is just around the corner. Sort of.

Last month was nothing short of a whirlwind. If I was in the office for five days it was a lot. National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). Coverings. Starnet. National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA). Manufacturer visits. Good for frequent flyer miles and strengthening relationships, bad for just about everything else.

So, after basically a month on the road, here is a window to my thoughts…

Finally met NWFA CEO Michael Martin, who has been on the job for about a year now. I came away impressed. Not to take anything away from Ed Korczak, who did a great job during his reign, but Martin has the group clicking on all cylinders. A convention more targeted toward education than years past drew rave reviews. Online training initiatives, an NWFA pavilion at Surfaces, which will bring more manufacturer members to Las Vegas, and a greater focus on the A&D community are just a few of the many initiatives. The organization’s best days lie ahead.

I returned to Coverings for the first time in a number of years. Left with the same feeling I always have: I need to re-do my kitchen and bathrooms. What’s changed are the trends. It’s almost unfathomable how many wood-look tiles were being shown, each one more realistic than the previous. Some companies were even showing reclaimed wood visuals, knots and all. And modular sizes, in many cases, are giving way to rectangular shapes.

I was lucky in that the one night I had in Orlando coincided with a private press tour hosted by Armstrong at Epcot, where the company provided the hardwood flooring for Disney’s new Vision House, a three-year exhibit in the Innoventions space. The exhibit highlights the major themes in green residential design and sustainable living, including high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, home automation, water conservation and hardwood floors. Mara Villaneuva-Heras, Armstrong’s vice president of marketing for the residential division for the past year, has added a fresh dimension to the company’s marketing.

So Starnet turned 20 this year. Good for them. The 12 original flooring contractor members remain after some turbulent years of channel conflict in the ’90s, and the group is stronger than ever. It has also evolved. It’s not just about installing floors anymore. It’s about maintenance and reclamation, too. Jeanne Matson deserves all the kudos for taking this group to new heights.

Made it to the NFA meeting a day late. Always come back a more intelligent individual. It was interesting that most members reported a strong January and February before business started tailing off. Some felt the drop in early March, others in late March and some made it into April before they hit the proverbial brick wall. The only explanation is the warm winter brought people out of their living rooms before the traditional spring season.

Speaking of the NFA, the group finally added a member in New England by virtue of Boston-based A.J. Rose Carpet & Flooring. We New Yorkers may not care much for the Red Sox or Patriots, but there’s a lot to like about second-generation owners A.J. and John Boyajian. Good guys and good retailers.

Finally, at NFA I heard a rumor something good was about to happen with Mid-Atlantic distributor Bayard Sales.  But as this issue went to press, the phone remained silent. I’m thinking we’ll have that one for you in two weeks. But when it breaks, you’ll find it on the web at fcnews.net.