Star Commercial Flooring is the perfect intersection of respect for our past and a dedication to changing and evolving with the times. Since our founding in 1939, the company possessed a clear mission for the business and a commitment to creating a presence within our distinct geographic area.
Thriving in a Growing Economy
As is the case in many family businesses, the beginning was simple: founded in 1939 by Earl Goebel, Star Lumber (the parent company) was a lumber yard and hardware business based in Wichita, Kan. Wichita was growing, and Star Lumber was designed to support the building business in the surrounding area. Earl wanted to capitalize on a solid growth potential, and the business he founded met the immediate needs.
The building materials business flourished, but Earl recognized a market need. In 1952, he decided to expand his business into residential flooring. His first purchase was three rolls of Armstrong linoleum to support the expanding builder market in Wichita, and that simple beginning was the start of a new business venture. Ten years later, Star Lumber was the largest purchaser of Armstrong Flooring in the state.
By 1960, the business further expanded into carpet, which provided consumers a durable luxury product at an affordable price. Earl’s son, Bill Goebel, was at the forefront of the carpet industry’s technological advancements and purchased his first rolls of carpet from Painter Carpet Mills, the first carpet manufacture in Dalton. Soon after, Star Lumber had grown to be one of the top 10 carpet dealers in the U.S. and offered a complete floor finishing line of wood, linoleum, carpet, ceramic and stone.
Market and Segment Expansion
By the late 1970s, Bill determined that the home building market alone would not support the growth goals of the company. He saw the upside potential of continuing his growth plan into the commercial market and began building relationships with general contractors throughout Wichita.
In 1980, a transformational event occurred which catapulted Star Lumber to a new level. Pizza Hut was founded in Wichita, and our company had the chance to cover the national footprint of this important end user. In order to service the account, the company started a transportation division and the semi-trucks made three to four trips to Georgia each week to secure carpet for the Pizza Hut business. This event was a jump start for the commercial flooring division.
After the Pizza Hut business expansion, Bill divided the business into two segments: Star Lumber, which continued to support the home builder market, and Star Commercial Flooring, which supported the commercial and remodeling market. This division allowed each business unit to serve its unique customer base, growing profitably individually and collectively as a company.
Then, in 1989, Bill’s son, Chris, at the age of 31 became president of the company and was instrumental in the commercial flooring growth until he retired in 2010. Chris is still heavily involved in the business and is currently the chairman of the board.
The 21st century brought the third generation of Goebels, Patrick Goebel, Chris’s successor and cousin, who was charged with carrying on the rich family heritage and leading the company’s growth initiatives into the future. Patrick’s first initiative was to expand the company’s footprint throughout the region with the opening of the Oklahoma City office. The new office presented two opportunities to leverage the existing builder division and drive negotiated work to a larger customer base. The continued evolution of our business throughout the generations has contributed to Star Lumber being recognized as a top flooring dealer the last 15-plus years.
The Value of Starnet Commercial Flooring
Star Commercial Flooring joined Starnet in 2007. At the time, our goal was to grow and to identify new opportunities. We felt that being part of Starnet would broaden our knowledge of the industry and the connections would bring great value to our business. We also wanted to do our part in helping to better the flooring industry.
Our expectations have been met. I attend every Starnet meeting, and several of our team members join me each year. We create connections with other Starnet members and the Preferred Vendors who partner with Starnet. The relationships and education have played a key part in the success we have enjoyed.
In particular, my salespeople and project managers have been impressed with the Starnet Design Awards competition. They have challenged others on the team to promote our Preferred Vendor products and to partner on entries. In 2018, we were awarded Bronze in the Unique Installation category. In addition, we were recognized and awarded the Starnet High Performance Growth Award in 2017 and 2018 for our continued commitment to the Starnet Vendor Network.
The Star Commercial Flooring Business Today
Present day, Star Lumber has evolved its business into a multifaceted commercial flooring dealer serving healthcare, education, hospitality, corporate, assisted living, multi-family and Main Street customers throughout the region. We believe the best outcome for all our customers is when we are driving the project early in its conception, from addressing site-related conditions like moisture, floor flatness and proper floor finishing specifications. In the long run, this provides our customer the best possible solution to meet their flooring needs with no surprises in costs or delays in schedules.
Critical to our success are our installation teams. While we subcontract our labor, they are part of our team along with our estimators, project managers and sales associates. Each are well versed on a range of materials and installation skills like sport flooring, flash cove vinyl, heat welding, thin-porcelain tile, LVT, VCT, carpet, etc. Our philosophy is to build strong relationships with installers just like we do with customers and our internal employees. Both have choices of where to work and we show them that we truly care about their professional and personal lives along with paying them above average pay rates which also helps them stay committed to working for our company.
On the training front, we rely heavily on flooring manufacturers to provide the primary training. Each month, we host a manufacturer to present their products and installation protocol. Through Starnet, we participate in the monthly webinar series and we send our project managers to on-site training sessions. We also became certified in moisture testing, which has been a valuable asset to our business. We are fortunate to have 18 different types of installation-related certifications within the team.
The Star Commercial Flooring management team is a tight and productive group. As the director of the commercial flooring division, I oversee both the Wichita and Oklahoma City markets. Our team is very experienced with an average of 14 years in the flooring industry. We have three estimators including a lead estimator who oversees the work. We also have three sales people with design experience and strong product and installation knowledge. The sales team is supported by two job specialists responsible for purchasing, project cooperation and manufacturer training. I have two project managers responsible for installation training, field supervision, recruiting labor and working with the general contractors.
When we complete a large project, we have a product knowledge meeting with the end user, general contractor, and architect to review care and maintenance. We also invite the primary manufacturers to these sessions, which adds to our value equation. These sessions allow us to stay in front of our customer for future flooring needs, leading to future business. We stay in touch with the end user and provide further information when necessary.
I believe we have a strong company culture driven by the Goebel’s family passion for their community, dedication to their employees and creating an atmosphere for the company and its clients to succeed. Throughout our history, the family has donated 10% or its earnings to causes in Wichita and Oklahoma City, including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital new home build since its inception. Our employees are highly engaged with our company values and are rewarded with excellent compensation, a comprehensive benefits package and perks like access to vacation cabins in Colorado and Missouri. With 360 employees, we are large enough to provide great opportunities to our employees and small enough to make sure family is first. Although the business is a $150-million company, we are still family-owned with the third generation leading and celebrating our 80th year in business this year. Our team mindset, flooring knowledge and experience will be the foundation of our continued growth in the future.