Anyone who's in business for three decades will experience their share of highs and lows. Just ask Jason Seltzer, who co-founded Great American Floors with his father, Marc Seltzer, in 1992.
"We've been doing this for 30 years," said Jason Seltzer, president, Great American Floors. "As long as you're able to weather the dips, it's always going to come back stronger."
In 1992, Jason had recently returned home from The University of Georgia, and Marc was in the planning stage of changing his two-year-old company, American Carpet Distributors, into a full-service flooring company. Marc saw the opportunity to expand into hardwood, laminate, carpet, luxury vinyl and hardwood refinishing.
Armed with a marketing degree and little direction of what he wanted to do, Jason became Marc's assistant. "He was doing all the sales, and I would do everything else he needed me to do,” Jason said. His tasks included running samples to customers, calling vendors, and printing and distributing mailbox flyers to neighborhoods.
Then one fateful day in 1995, Marc collapsed from a heart issue while running on a treadmill. As he spent two months in the hospital recovering from open-heart surgery, the responsibility of running the company fell on Jason.
“I'll never forget our CPA came in to ask, 'So, are you guys gonna shut down the company?'" Jason said. “That sparked a fire in me—and it’s no joke—I just grabbed my dad’s briefcase and started going to appointments.”
When Marc returned to work, he and Jason continued to sell floors. “I started getting some sales, and it was exciting—the momentum really built,” Jason said. In fact, sales doubled that year, and Robie, who is Marc's wife and Jason's mother, joined the business.
As sales grew, they hired more employees. In 1996, the company moved into its first location with a showroom and an attached warehouse. In 2002, Great American Floors partnered with Mohawk Industries as a Mohawk Floorscapes dealer, which presented an opportunity to streamline the showroom and expand the product offering.
Then in 2007, The Great Recession began. By 2009, Great American Floors was back down to three employees: Marc, Robie and Jason.
"I remember Jeff Lorberbaum at Mohawk speak in 2010 and he said that one-third of everyone in our industry went out business—but we made it," Jason said. "He said the economy was going to get better, and he was right. We’ve grown every year since.”
Today, the two showrooms in Sandy Springs and Peachtree Corners, Georgia, have 15 full-time employees and 20 to 25 subcontracted installation crews who pull product from the company's warehouse. Residential leads come from homeowners, home remodeling contractors and several hundred real estate agents. A handful of new construction builders and some Main Street commercial projects, including restaurants, dentist and doctor’s offices, round out the business.
Even the recent pandemic and waning consumer confidence hasn't slowed down sales.
“Sales have not gone down,” Jason said. “As of June 30th, we were up 18% over last year."
Great American Floors is seeing higher ticket sales from customers trading up to bigger projects and better products.
“There are not as many houses for sale, so if you wanted to move and couldn’t find your house, you’re going to stay and make the house what you want. That’s why I think the jobs are bigger," Jason noted.
So what's next for this successful independent flooring retailer celebrating 30 years of business? One notable project this year is the company’s conversion of its business management software from QuickBooks to RFMS. The team is also keenly focused on customer service.
"Follow-up is huge—that’s the secret sauce—don't tell my competitors," Jason said. "You have to know what you’re talking about. You gotta dress nice. You gotta build rapport, but if you don’t follow up, you’re never going to get the sale."
See past coverage of Great American Floors here.