Robert Van Buren

Domco’s retiring CEO honored for trend-setting products, marketing innovations and varied contributions to the industry

Several hundred coworkers, colleagues and well-wishers recently gathered in Montreal to honor Bob Van Buren on his retirement after 50 years in the floor covering industry. He started as a chemist in the engineering department of a small resilient tile manufacturer. At retirement, he was president and CEO of Domco Industries and vice chairman and CEO of Domco Tarkett, the second-largest flooring manufacturer in North America.

Over the years, Van Buren earned universal respect for his capabilities, expertise and accomplishments in every part of the industry — from manufacturing, styling and retailing to distribution, sales and marketing. Superb in dealing with these varied facets of the business, he distinguished himself as a top-flight executive as well. He gave of himself to the companies with which he was associated, to the people with whom he worked and to the floor covering industry as a whole.

The list of Van Buren’s industry achievements is mind-boggling. For instance, his first position was in the engineering department of the Mastic Tile Co. (which through acquisitions became Ruberoid, and then GAF). By the time he left that company 23 years later, he had risen to vice president of manufacturing. Among other things, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s sheet vinyl and tile operations and the launch of thru-chip commercial tile.

Van Buren’s next post was the presidency of Amtico (now a division of Congoleum) which, during his tenure from 1973-1979, introduced the first urethane-coated tile. Next, he moved on to Azrock Industries as president.

It was in 1989 that Domco Industries brought him to Canada as its president and CEO. He built a team that took a $70 million company and — through strategic business decisions that included the acquisition of Azrock Industries and Nafco, and a merger with Tarkett — transformed it into a $1.2 billion powerhouse. Quite an empire any way you look at it.

That is one heck of a lot for any one person to have on his or her plate. But throughout his career, Bob Van Buren also devoted much of his energy to industry associations. He was an early supporter of the WFCA and served on its board of directors for two years. He was among a select group of industry leaders who helped the WFCA launch the annual Surfaces trade exposition. This year, he was inducted into the prestigious WFCA Hall of Fame.

In addition, Van Buren served two terms as president of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) and established himself as a strong and avid supporter of the National Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD). He has also lavished his time and talents on numerous community endeavors, including efforts to aid hospitals and research foundations, children’s causes, theaters, and the arts.

Bob Van Buren made a mark on this industry that will remain for many, many years to come. He, and his wife Elaine, made floor coverings a better place for all of us.

Hundreds turned out at a dinner reception to honor outgoing Domco Tarkett CEO Bob Van Buren on his retirement. Marking the occasion here are (standing from left) John Harris, Rocky Genovese, Cam Gentile, Marc Assa, (seated from left) Janet Gentile, Joy Genovese, Bob Van Buren and Elaine Van Buren.