Floor Trends’ inaugural Retailer Awards contest sought to honor the most professional and creative retailers of the year in different regions of the United States. Readers from across the country voted on those retailers that make their businesses more than just a paycheck—they make it a passionate calling to honor every customer that walks through their doors. We spoke with the winners to find out their approach to the retail flooring business, what they love about their jobs and what sets them apart from their competition.

Article Index:

Foglio’s: Winner in the Northeast

When a customer walks into Foglio’s Flooring Center, they are welcomed by a comfortable atmosphere and showroom, along with a knowledgeable and attentive sales team.

“Our staff is dedicated to giving our customers undivided attention throughout the sales and installation process,” said Kevin McMahon, general manager at the Marmora, N.J., operation.

According to McMahon, a well-versed sales team is one of the keys to Foglio’s quality customer care. “We have some employees with a design background, others with installation and technical experience. Some of our staff even comes from the installation portion of the business. We bundle it all together for a well-rounded staff and experience we believe benefits our customers.”

Since opening its doors in 1988 under the direction of Liz Foglio, president of the company, the family-owned business has reinvented itself several times to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and the industry, while remaining true to its cores values: offering the best value and real customer service.

When the economy took a hit, Foglio’s quickly readjusted to remain above water. “Over the years, Liz has altered strategies in doing business to conform to an ever-changing market and economic times,” said McMahon.

According to Laura Bartley, marketing communications manager at Mohawk Flooring, Foglio’s did this by finding ways to combat the fluctuating economy, which included re-evaluating their budget and cutting back in areas without sacrificing customer service and business needs.

“[Foglio’s] evaluated their stocking program and devised a new strategy to keep excessive amounts of products on the shelves at one time,” she said. “They have also recently rebranded the business to attract today’s consumer.”

To attract this customer, the folks at Foglio’s keep their eyes open and their ears to the ground, according to McMahon. “Our customers change, products change, and our lives constantly change. If you think you have it all figured out you are wrong; it will change tomorrow. Our customer dictates where we go; I can only be in control of following them.”

Over the years, other changes have included exploring various marketing avenues and entering the world of social media. “Our company now utilizes the Twitter and Houzz communities and we are actively involved on Facebook,” said McMahon. “Facebook has become a platform for us to communicate with our customers and others who have interests in our company. It gives us an additional place to post information on sales, new introductions and pictures of jobs we have done. It also gives a potential consumer an opportunity to see our reviews.”

Even as times change and business practices evolve, Foglio’s doesn’t forget the power of a handshake and talking to customers face-to-face.

“Marketing is something we are always looking at,” said McMahon. “We see so many avenues to take. But which one is right? We stay active in community involvement and business groups. Grassroots cold-calling on the trades and commercial sector are our main focus lately. In today’s world, with all this technology, it seems the simple old-fashioned cold call still works. Asking a contractor, builder, or designer how you can earn their business is still very effective. Face to face with a hand shake is an art form that seems to be dying with today’s technology.”

For more information, visit foglios.com

Manasota Flooring: Winner in the Southeast

Manasota Flooring is a full-service operation serving consumers in South Florida since 1979. Under the direction and vision of owner Bob Tiffany, a former flooring installer, the company has stood the test of time, and grown to a four-location business.

“Manasota Flooring prides itself on its commitment to the consumer experience,” said Laura Bartley, marketing communications manager for Mohawk Flooring. “From the moment consumers enter the store, they are greeted by a well-trained and customer-focused sales team to enhance the buying experience.”

According to Manasota’s Chris Quattlebaum, whether a customer is coming in to scope out flooring and potentially make a purchase, or in some cases, to simply chit-chat and enjoy a cup of coffee with the sales team, creating a comfortable environment is a top priority at Manasota.

“We try to get customers’ guards down as soon as they walk in,” he said. “[Flooring] is a big purchase, and we try to make everyone comfortable—like you’re coming to see your aunt and uncle on the showroom floor.”

Similar to his father-in-law Bob Tiffany, Quattlebaum comes from a flooring installation background. He joined Manasota as a warehouse employee, and has since grown in various capacities within the company as it continues to experience growth and location expansion.

Today, Quattlebaum leads the company’s sales teams—driving their performance and inspiring their creativity with one simple question: “What can we do that other companies won’t do?”

This question has led Manasota to offer customers an enhanced buying experience, cross-training of employees, and new avenues for marketing and advertising—all while keeping customer service top priority.

With social media, Manasota has taken its connection with customers from the showroom floor to the web. And with the help of Internet banners and popular consumer sites like Angie’s List and Home Advisor, the company is a visible and trusted source for customers in the market for flooring. “We are heavy on the social media side,” said Quattlebaum. “Facebook Twitter, Pinterest—pretty much all the major social media channels.”

Even with the help of the internet—today’s top marketing tool—Manasota has not replaced strategies that have proven to be successful over the years, such as television and newspaper advertising. “We do a little bit of local newspaper advertising, just because we have an older clientele who still likes to pick up the paper, the good old-fashioned way,” said Quattlebaum.

In addition to being named a Floor Trends’ Retailer Award winner, Manasota’s ongoing commitment to training, store standards, brand building, merchandising and installation ideas, as well as community involvement, landed them a 2014 Mohawk Dealer of the Year award.

“We’re just out to make customers smile and make them feel good about their purchase,” said Quattlebaum. “Awards are great, but when we have satisfied customers, we’re happy.”

For more information, visit manasotaonline.com

H.J. Martin and Son: Winner in the Midwest

From humble beginnings, H. J. Martin and Son has grown into the flooring retail powerhouse that it is today. The company, which began in Henry John Martin’s Green Bay, Wis., garage in 1931, continues to serve customers throughout Wisconsin four generations, and over 80 years, later.

Several factors have led to the company’s longevity and success in the floor covering industry, but according to David Martin, the most recent Martin to join the company, H.J. Martin’s installation team is what’s truly been its lifeline.

“It all starts with our installation team,” he said. “The sacrifices they make to travel and work on weekends, work holidays and nights are what set us apart. They are the heartbeat of the company.”

Like the Martin family, generational lines can be found amongst the company’s installation team, and with the addition of each generation, the passion for the industry and company is passed along, according to Martin.

“We are very fortunate to have a history that has allowed us to get to four generations within the Martin family. Our average employee’s tenure with the company is 20 years.”

On the retail side, the company’s diverse product offering and experienced sales teams have made H.J. Martin a customer favorite. “Merchandising is important to us in that we always strive to offer our customers the latest and best flooring options,” Martin stated. “We also carry a number of exclusive product lines, which allows us to serve those looking for high-end flooring.”

In addition to flooring, H.J. Martin has expanded its operation over the years to further meet customer needs. With the addition of several departments such as glass and glazing, walls and ceilings, doors and hardware, fixture installation and millwork installation, H.J. Martin has proven to be a one-stop-shop in many cases.

H.J. Martin’s employees are cross-trained to be knowledgeable in each of these departments.

“This cross-training makes us more competitive because while others are sending multiple people, we can send someone with the skills to perform drywall, flooring, ceilings, etc.,” said Martin.

Whether through their revitalized website, iPads on the showroom floor, or emphasis on search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO), H.J. Martin also keeps a close eye on technology advancements and trends that will keep them relevant in the industry.

“We want our website to be one of the top options when a potential customer searches for flooring. Then we want to have a website that is easy for that customer to use and generate ideas, and then hopefully it results in a store visit,” said Martin. “In addition, our marketing campaigns help our internet advertising—after someone clicks on our website and exits, a targeted ad will be displayed. All of our promotional campaigns, when we run various residential flooring sales, have a website landing page that is associated with our sale and are marketed in these ways.”

As a well-respected leader in the industry, H.J. Martin remains humble in the way they do business. “My father, Edward, always says, ‘You’re only as good as your last job,’” said Martin. “That is so true. We might have installed flooring in someone’s home or commercial space nine times, but if they have a bad experience on the tenth time, that’s all they will remember. We strive for excellence in all aspects of our business.”

For more information, visit hjmartin.com.

Katy Carpets Etc.: Winner in the Southwest

Katy Carpets Etc., located in Katy, Texas, is a family-owned and operated business that has its own way of standing out from the crowd. The store serves as a one-stop-shop for customers, offering a variety of products and services at one easy location.

“The Etc. at the end of Katy Carpets Etc. includes most anything inside the home,” said owner Glen Baney. He and his wife, Angel, have a vast network of people to call on to make the project complete, including painters, plumbers and electricians.

“We have great contacts for people we know locally that are good people and do good work,” Baney assured. “We can spearhead an entire project for anyone walking through the door. That way the customer only has to deal with Angel and myself instead of all of these different subcontractors.”

Katy Carpets Etc. cares about pleasing customers. “Clients aren’t passed on to another division once they decide to trust us with their project,” explained Baney. “Angel and I are personally involved in every phase of the project, from start to finish. Customers become friends. We live, work and school our children in this community; therefore, customer satisfaction is paramount.”

Baney has been involved in the flooring industry for 21 years. Starting off cleaning carpets, he quickly graduated to repair and small flooring installations. Shortly afterward, it became apparent the community was in great need of local, personal customer service for retail flooring. As a result, Katy Carpets Etc. was born and Baney and Angel gladly took on the responsibility and full ownership.

“We’ve been in business for 14 years now—providing all types of services, such as various types of flooring, granite countertops, complete kitchen and bath remodels, some preconstruction, custom cabinet construction, water restorations and much more,” Baney said. “We’ve done a number of different things for clients over the years.”

While the marketing plan for Katy Carpets continues to evolve over time—especially with the focus shifting from print to Internet-based marketing—the company’s showroom acts as another way of selling the customer on a vision. “Our showroom has always had a welcoming feel to it,” added Baney. “We really work to maximize floor space without overcrowding. We try to make everybody happy.”

Katy Carpets goes out of its way to give customers a memorable experience. “We’re highly rated on both the Katy Chamber of Commerce and The Better Business Bureau, as well as Yelp,” commented Baney. “People also put our business on sites like Angie’s List and Houzz, highlighting large, custom projects we have completed.”

Some customers visit Katy Carpets without a clue as to what they want done in their home and Baney believes it’s helpful to simply listen. “We listen to the customer and see which way it sounds like they’re leaning, then match them up with that and help them with color, style and what will fit in their home.”

Regarding business best practices, Baney shared this: “The lesson to pass on is no secret. Success comes when you work very hard at getting others what they want. We want everyone to be happy and say good things about us because people come in their houses and we want them to have a smile on their face and be proud of what they’ve had done to improve their home.”

He said the company was honored to be named a top retailer by Floor Trends readers. “Winning this award is a great accolade. It’s really good for our business to get exposure, of course, but to be recognized as one of the top companies around definitely fills us with pride. To be recognized after all the years of hard work and trying to make everyone as happy as possible—generally the only reward we receive is getting more business, so it’s nice to be recognized.”

Baney commented that anyone who decides to visit him and his wife at Katy Carpets Etc. will have an enjoyable experience talking with them both. “We’re just a nice couple that enjoys what we do.”

For more information, visit Katycarpets.com

Westside Tile & Stone: Winner in the West

Westside Tile & Stone, located in Canoga Park, Calif., differentiates itself from its competition in a variety of ways. “People come into our store and it’s different from almost any other store in southern California,” said owner Steve Slutzah. “There are two common words used: ‘wow’ and ‘overwhelming.’ The overwhelming aspect is comparable to a child walking into a Jelly Belly store. While it’s a lot to take in at first, you always find that people are attracted to something in particular. The key thing is that you have people here to help you and not just sell you tile, but help you make decisions.”

With a 9,300 sq. ft. showroom, Westside Tile & Stone specializes in tile and stone exclusively. The company chooses its lines very carefully. “That’s what makes our store so different,” Slutzah added. “For example, we didn’t just want the company name on the side of the building. So we all got together and came up with ‘For the Love of Tile,’ which is now featured below our business name on the side of the building. We’re all very passionate about what we do here.”

Slutzah began his journey in the industry as a salesperson for Color Tile in 1991. After three months, he was made store manager and then six months later he was promoted to regional manager for the Southwest where he was in charge of 30 stores in four states. The region he took over was ranked 25 in the country and it only took him eight months to bring that to the No. 1 spot.

This quickly became a trend among other stores as well, including his new position at Valley Tile where, “after four years we took that from one store doing $50,000 a month to four stores doing about $700,000 to 800,000 a month,” he said.

After gaining some more experience at a few other companies, Slutzah was approached by Matthew Weiner, now co-owner of Westside, who asked him to open a store with him. When the recession hit, there was only one year (2008) where the company was affected and was down 20%. “Then in 2009, we were up 1% and now we’ve been double-digit every year since.”

Every year, Westside employees work to change the dynamic inside the store by changing up the flat walls and the configuration of them (taking four walls and making it six, for example).

“One thing I pride myself on is learning from other people’s mistakes,” Slutzah said. “You go into some tile stores and they haven’t changed anything in 10, 15 or 20 years. My thing is you need to change your store up all the time.”

Additionally, Westside continually educates its installers on new products and techniques.

About three years ago, Slutzah and Weiner opened their second store in Beverly Hills. “Matthew [Weiner] just turned 29, but when he was at Coverings he received an award for Industry Rock Star at the age of 28,” exclaimed Slutzah. “It really comes down to surrounding yourself with good people and it’s those people who are priceless.”

He added, “It’s important to motivate people and recognize that your people are the most important asset you can have. It all comes down to people and passion.”

Just this past month, Westside Tile & Stone received a variety of awards from different industry outlets and then Floor Trends called. “Receiving this award means a lot to me,” Slutzah expressed. “It’s the 10th anniversary for the store, and what this says to me is that what you set out to do 10 years ago is what you’re doing today.”

For more information, visit westsidetile.com.