The first Tuesday in October came and went like an autumn breeze, just like any other day. It felt neither different nor special. I was somewhat surprised. After all, it’s not every day you turn 50.
For some time, I had been contemplating how I would spend the day. (There was no 25-year celebration because my dad had passed a couple of months prior.) This time, I wanted memorable, preferably outside the proverbial box. But unlike my friend and FCNews associate publisher Dustin Aaronson, I do not have the gumption to go skydiving. Unlike the better part of modern civilization, I can’t swim, so scuba diving, parasailing and swimming with dolphins were out. Let’s just say my definition of adventure is trying a new restaurant.
At some point, I came to my decision: I simply wanted to spend my 50th with friends. Shortly thereafter, I learned the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) would be hosting its fall meeting smack dab on top of my birthday. I thought I’d have to miss my first NFA event in 10 years. And then it hit me like a Lindsay Lohan-driven vehicle after midnight. Maybe it was divine intervention. After all, I said I wanted to spend my 50th with friends, and just like that, my wish was granted.
I spent a good part of the day staring at the Caribbean Sea, not only reflecting on my own life but also the people with whom I chose to spend this day. I am always writing about these people as successful retailers with innovative ideas, but we never talk about them as individuals. They are some of the best people you’d ever want to meet.
There’s new NFA president Phil Koufidakis, owner of Baker Bros. in Arizona, who grew up on the Upper Upper West Side of Manhattan. A true New Yorker no matter where he calls home. He’s a commanding presence, intelligent and does not mince words. After 20 years in manufacturing, he became a retailer. And a great one. Most importantly, he always makes himself accessible.
There’s Sam Roberts, Roberts Carpet and Fine Floors in Houston, who, for some reason, will always be the face of the NFA in my mind. His level of success is eclipsed only by the size of the state in which he does business. You’ll also find no retailer more passionate not only about the NFA but life itself.
There’s Richard Longwill, Airbase Carpet Mart, another ex-New Yorker. Richard built a retail empire in the Mid-Atlantic with a unique business model. I liken Richard to E.F. Hutton—when he talks, people listen. And his opinions are usually spot on.
There’s Jimmy Poulos, who started Flooring 101 in Ventura County 40 years ago after arriving on these shores from Greece. Poulos hardly ever has a bad year, let alone a bad month. His work ethic is tireless.
There’s the legendary Alan Braunstein of Worldwide Wholesale in New Jersey, whose Kane Carpet was one of the largest distributors in the country from the late ’60s to early ’80s. After the ill-fated merger with Benj. Berman, Braunstein resurfaced as a retailer, and Worldwide is among the largest independent dealers in the country. He and his son, Darren, run a first-class operation.
There’s Jeff Katz, Dolphin Carpet, South Florida, a relatively new member, who generously offered to take care of my mother when she was ceramic tiling her kitchen and bathroom. Unsolicted.
There’s Steve Boardman, MMM Carpets, Bay Area, who had the opportunity to purchase a struggling business four years ago and almost immediately turned it into a profitable enterprise by sticking to the basics.
And, there are so many more. But we’ll save them for another day.