All three brothers served in the military during World War II and returned to Cranston to begin their careers and raise their families. Leveraging skills they learned during their military service, they set up a business in my grandfather’s garage in 1949, installing linoleum, carpeting and Formica counter tops to support the post-war housing boom.
By 1952, they had evolved the business into a full-service flooring operation, moving out of the garage and setting up a storefront in a new and exciting shopping plaza called Garden City. At that time, besides installing product, they started partnering with key manufacturers such as Armstrong to service the residential and commercial community. In fact, Ruggieri Brothers was the first Armstrong Floor Fashion dealer in Rhode Island and the brothers quickly established their business as the highest quality provider of residential and commercial flooring in the area.
And the family ties didn’t end there. As the company expanded, additional family members and family friends were brought into the business. Their recruiting methods were simple: Hire people they knew and trusted and train them in installation and project management.
Both within the office and out in the field, their staff has included sons, daughters, cousins, nephews, friends of the family and people from the Italian immigrant neighborhood where they grew up. This strategy has provided the foundation for a strong and committed team, and it has insolated our company from periodic labor shortages, which impact many commercial flooring companies.
Today, Ruggieri Brothers remains a family business with the second and third generation in leadership positions. In total, six family members still work in the business, four in management and two in the field installing.
Two of the original founders—Anthony and John—have passed away and their brother, Ed, just celebrated his 99th birthday this past November. Ed worked in the business until he was 93 and he remains healthy today. Ed’s son, Paul, runs our residential business while John’s two grandsons, Bill and Peter, work on the commercial side, with an emphasis in operations for the company. I oversee commercial sales and project management, while running the financials for the business.
Because of our family ties, we have been able to remain focused on the “good of the business” and each member of the management team works in his area of strength. We have a shared goal, which is the long-term success of Ruggieri Brothers and to remain solid for the future generations.
The founders of our business were dedicated to the local community. In the early days, their contribution was hiring post-war workers. Later, their outreach included establishing a training program for inner-city youth or military kids who had no viable skills and no career direction. These young people have been trained within the Ruggieri Brothers system, gaining installation skills through INSTALL—the union training program—and working with skilled, older installers who share their knowledge and expertise. Like the management of the company, some of our installers today are 2nd and 3rd generation.
During our 65th anniversary celebration this past July, Ruggieri Brothers was proud to be part of the Annual Quonset Airshow, a popular tradition in our state which had ceased operation over the last few years due to the recent recession, We were able to bring the 9-11 Traveling Museum, which is a tribute to America’s bravest military and first responders. In addition to sponsoring the 9-11 Traveling Museum, we made a donation to Building Americas Bravest, which is an organization that helps build custom smart homes for injured American service members.
Every year, we sponsor many local charitable organizations, and also have been active in supporting our local military families by providing them significant discounts when they make a purchase.
We are proud of our role in the community and we are grateful for the success we have enjoyed over the years because of being part of a state like Rhode Island.
Despite this strong business foundation, the current management of Ruggieri Brothers is looking forward with the goal of growing and strengthening our business for the future. And, as is the case for many residential and commercial flooring companies, business is more competitive than ever and we need to work harder and smarter.
For Ruggieri Brothers, we have unique opportunities. First, we operate in a relatively small market area: Rhode Island. While we are located in the Northeast, which is a strong commercial area, our business has generally grown through the connections we had in our hometown and just beyond. However, we are now expanding beyond this area toward the Massachusetts and Connecticut markets in order to capitalize on the growth in those areas as well.
Second, we have expanded the services we offer to our customers. Our original focus on resilient and carpet products has broadened into other flooring types including wood, ceramic tiles and epoxy coatings. In addition, we offer floor prep, moisture mitigation, reclamation and post-installation repairs, which allows us to provide a single contact point to our customer base.
At this point, the commercial side of Ruggieri Brothers represents 80% of the business and, since 1994 we have been members of Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring and have gained significant benefits from our membership in this organization. Not only have we been successful in winning design award competitions, we are also able to share best practices with the leading commercial flooring contractors in North America, as I can reach out to my fellow members with specific product or installation questions.
In particular, we have leveraged the Starnet exclusive product lines to our competitive advantage. We work hard to get these products specified, and work really hard for our vendor partners. I consider the Starnet membership meetings to be some of the most important events I attend each year, which is one of the reasons I have sat on the meetings committee for over eight years.
Finally, we stay ahead of the competition by emphasizing high quality work and excellence in service to our customer base. Over the years, we believe this focus has protected our business from lower quality competitors who do inferior work and don’t provide comprehensive project management. As a union member, we provide excellent training to our installation crews, a combination of employees and sub-contracted labor, and we know the final product reflects their outstanding skill level.
Battling low-cost competition is tougher today than ever. Even after the recent economic recession when similar businesses were forced to close, we continue to battle these companies. We are successful because our customer base is seeking a quality end result and customized service. The entire team, from management, sales and project managers, and logistic staff to the field personnel all know this is important for the future success of the business, and we treat every project—no matter the size—the same, as repeat and referral business is what has gotten us here.
Speaking for the entire team at Ruggieri Brothers, we are proud of our family heritage and of the business we have built over the past 65 years. It is an honor to work in this diverse and rewarding business and I am excited to build an even stronger future, and carry this generational family run business for the next 35 years, when we will be celebrating our 100th year in business.
David Ruggieri is a 3rd generation member of the management team at Ruggieri Brothers, currently serving as vice president and treasurer of the commercial flooring business headquartered in Cranston, R.I. He is responsible for the financial management of the business and also oversees the sales team and project management for key accounts. David sits on the board for the Northeast Flooring Contractors Association. For more information, call (401) 463-9100 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.