Forty-five years ago, Chuck Wien earned his degree at Ohio State University and did what many of his generation did: He joined his father in what was then a five-year-old family business, Marshall Carpet in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The Wiens sold carpet from samples in a 700-square-foot showroom at the Richmond Mall (now called Richmond Town Square), which was one of the first large-scale shopping centers in the area.
Marshall Wien had launched the business in 1966 after distributing Barwick Mills carpets in the 1950s and early ‘60s. Comfortable with working off of samples without stocking any product, he was able to settle nicely into the small second-floor showroom utilizing an off-site workroom to build the business until he was ready to hand over the reins. Sons Chuck and Marc joined the company in 1971 and 1972 respectively and became co-owners while their father Marshall moved on to community work in the public sector.
In the ensuing years, the brothers grew the company into a full-service flooring and accessory gallery expanding from a 2,500-square-foot showroom to a 6,500-square-foot showroom. Today, the Wien brothers operate from a 17,000-square-foot space to service all of northeast Ohio and beyond. In addition to carrying all types of flooring, they stock more than 1,000 area rugs from a full range of vendors and have a 10,000-square-foot warehouse off site to receive and prep customer orders.
With a community spirit indoctrinated from an early age, the pair built their business with community always front and center.
“We have always wanted it to be and feel like a family business where people come in and the owners are present,” Chuck Wien said. “We want the people who work with us to feel like part of the family. We offer a comfortable work environment, treat subcontractors with respect and appreciate them, and we over-service our customers.”
The formula has worked. The company has sales people and decorators who have been with the firm for more than 25 years, installers who have subcontracted for them for close to 40 years, retail customers who rave on review sites about the family environment, and unmitigated proof in the company’s continued growth over the years even while moving into its current space at the height of the last recession.
“We want the people who work with us to feel like part of the family. ”
With sales approaching eight figures this year from the retail store, Wien says one of the most influential moments in the company’s success was the day more than a quarter century ago when it joined CCA Global’s Carpet One. That moment led to many others, including taking on the ProSource brand in the region with two stores and sales about even with the residential business.
“We joined Carpet One when we were in a 2,500-square-foot combined showroom and warehouse location,” he said. “We were within the first couple hundred stores to sign with Carpet One in the ‘80s because we liked its formula and made a gut decision.”
Originally a bit of a defensive maneuver in response to a few larger chains growing in the area, Wien admitted, joining the buying group was definitely the way to go for the small company. Competition was coming on many fronts for the single-store operator; quite a few competing chains boasted more storefronts.
“The larger chains in our area are gone now,” he noted. “Our gut decision turned out to be one of the best moves we made in our career; both rewarding and beneficial.”
Today, Marshall Carpet One & Rug Gallery holds a preeminent place in northeast Ohio as arguably the largest area rug retailer in the region. With the added offerings through its ProSource operations, the company can also provide cabinetry and plumbing for customers doing a complete renovation.
Along the way, the Wien brothers evolved the business through four showrooms, a satellite location which was brought back into the main operation, and a separate area rug business that joined forces with the main flooring store when it settled into its current space.
While Chuck Wien has experienced much success, he said he learned from the company’s few missteps over the years. At one time the company expanded into replacing carpets for offices and apartments. The operation was busy enough to warrant its own location and warehouse, but the brothers found it was not really cost effective.
“We were doing a lot of volume, but it was all low end and the clients were slow to pay,” he said. “We got out because it was not worth the time or aggravation we put into it. Just because you’re doing volume and have more stores doesn’t mean you netted more money.”
Instead, much focus is put on the customer in the form of exceeding all expectations at every step of the sale, all the way through after care.
“We’ll let customers take advantage of us instead of fight with them,” Wien explained. “There’s a point where you may have to stop, but we want our customers to feel taken care of properly.”
“We kill them with kindness,” reinforced Steve Glassman, president of Marshall Rug Gallery, the division he opened with childhood friend Marc Wien 20 years ago. “It helps to be knowledgeable about our products and we help customers make their decisions.”
To ensure everyone is knowledgeable enough about all the company’s offerings, Glassman says the sales team is given accountability and trained on every new collection. The training, presented by vendor reps and management, covers everything from fibers, to how to clean, to advantages and disadvantages so customers can be served properly.
“Without bragging, and maybe not being humble, I think we’re the best quality and service-oriented flooring store in northeast Ohio,” Wien said. “From the product we show, the type of showroom, how we service customers by doing things in a timely fashion, after care, treating customers and subs with respect, it is a very simple formula.”
The company built part of its reputation by focusing its advertising efforts on branding over sales.
“We promote everyday value with TV, local newspaper and cable,” Wien said. “We also like to promote by donating things like area rugs to various charities. It’s just branding.”
Going forward, the company’s third generation is well-established in the business through Marc’s sons Nate and Ryan, and a third son, Matt, who is taking a brief sabbatical.
To ensure they remain top of mind with local consumers, Wien says the company is enhancing its search engine optimization capabilities with branding opportunities in organically placed links.
“It is not hard to be better than your competition, but it takes many years to develop your reputation and grow your business,” Wien said. “We’re that turtle that just kind of grew their location.”