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Words of wisdom: Legacy dealers share secrets to success, longevity

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

There are many longstanding, multi-generational retailers dotting the flooring landscape, but not every one of them can be considered a “legacy” retailer—a star in a galaxy of specialty flooring stores.

Of course, being around a long time isn’t a prerequisite for success in business. (Otherwise, retailers like Toys ‘R Us, Sam Goody, RadioShack, Circuit City and many others would still be around.) Survival over several decades—and emerging from multiple recessions—takes special business acumen.

Rite Rug
Columbus, Ohio
Michael Goldberg, CEO
One word: passion. Passion for your business. Passion for your people. Passion for life. If you’re lucky enough to be a second- or third- or fourth-generation retailer, then you have passion and the people before you had passion. Without passion you can’t get from one generation to the next. My father lit a fire in me, and that fire is passion.

The people I work with every day are the ones who tell me I have passion. I didn’t know it until they told me.

Erin Appleman, president, retail marketing and merchandising, offered this perspective on Goldberg’s passion: “Rite Rug to Michael is a living, breathing entity. It is part of his family. He looks after it every day, he nurtures it every day as you would a child that must be taken care of. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, weekend, middle of the night. It’s a living, breathing thing for him. Rite Rug is who he is, every day. Everything he does is focused around the company. It’s his energy and creativity; it’s all about Rite Rug. It’s just part of his fiber.”

Pierce Flooring & Cabinet Design Center
Billings, Mont.
Jon Pierce, director of business development
Montana is a very large state with few people in it. In fact, it is the fourth-largest state geographically with roughly 1 million people. We now have seven stores and did $40 million in business last year.

We chose to be in the flooring industry, but in reality we are in the people business. Our DNA has been taking care of people over the years, showing people we genuinely care. Here is what I believe: Take interest in others. Exceed expectations. Do what you say you will do. Humility is a virtue. Give credit to others in lieu of taking credit for yourself. Go around and say good morning to every staff member and acknowledge them for the smallest of things. Build a network of happy friends and clients and create ambassadors for you and your business. Give back to the community. Become an expert at conflict resolution. There are daily issues and solving them with a sense of calm resolve can pay huge dividends.

Sterling Carpet & Flooring
Anaheim, Calif.
Dan Mandel, co-owner
We were founded in 1962 in Orange County. My father and his partner purchased the store in 1987 with no experience in flooring. We have grown up quite a bit from that time and diversified from only stocking rolls of carpet to expanding into all flooring surfaces. Four years ago, I bought the store from my father and his partner, and I look forward to continuing the legacy they have built.

We are very conservative overall and always try to keep the customer first and foremost. It sounds cliché, but we understand this is a big purchase and one that is not made often. We want to make the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring
San Antonio
Sam O’Krent, CEO
One of the key secrets to our 104th year, fifth-generation, longevity is being employee centric. Major decisions are made with a focus on how it will affect our current employees. We feel it is impossible to have happy customers without having happy employees. This has led to having employees with great tenure (20, 30 and 40-plus years) with our company.

We pride ourselves on the reputation our family has earned and sustained for honesty and fairness. Whether it’s how we deal with our customers, our vendors or our employees, it is crucial that we deal only in the truth. Focusing on the short-term win will never accomplish our long-term goals.

Abbey Carpet of San Francisco
San Francisco
Chuck McMechen, owner
After 52 years in the business, I can tell you in six words what it’s all about: good service, good service, good service.

We are different than most dealers by our size (12,000 square feet) and assortment—80%-85% of what we have is wool. We have 400 rugs; we don’t do that much hard surface, so we are an anomaly when it comes to current trends. We have a different clientele here—a very affluent customer. We do a lot of work with designers. We somewhat benefit by being in an affluent market, but at the same time it is hard for the average person to afford living here. Our labor is high. We have to pay very high wages.

We’re known for our service and selection. If we don’t have it, it’s almost a miracle because we have almost everything. We do all our binding and serging here. We do stock inventory, and we are Xpress Global’s biggest customer on the West Coast. Flooring is not an easy business, and at 78 years old I am not getting any younger. We go through hell sometimes getting paid for jobs, but it’s the nature of the business.