"When you're working with things in housing, you are working with people's hopes and dreams," says Matt Capell, owner at Meridian, Idaho-based Capell Flooring and Interiors.
If that's the case, then the following recipients of the 2023 Outstanding Retailer Awards are making dreams come true day in and day out.
Through years of honing their skills and procedures they've collectively raised the industry's standard of excellence. We are honored to share their stories and insights into their successes. Every winner we spoke with feels optimistic about the future and is eyeing continued growth as they look to turn more dreams into reality.
Are you a wood flooring retailer who goes above and beyond? Enter our 2024 Outstanding Retailer Awards at this link. To see more from this year's winners, scroll down.
Capell Flooring and Interiors | Meridian, Idaho
Number of employees: 7
Year founded: 1974
Annual revenue: $2.5 million
For some business owners, marketing is viewed as a necessary evil—a Sisyphean task and cause for headache. For Matt Capell, marketing is where the fun begins.
From custom-designing his company's website to crafting popular holiday giveaways to occasionally donning a Superman suit (to "save the Boise area from flooring disaster," of course), the creative marketing tactics and customer service of Capell Flooring and Interiors have helped the company flourish into a go-to flooring dealer in an extremely competitive market.
The company was pioneered by Capell's mother, Bonnie, nearly 50 years ago. Capell and his wife, Patty, took the reins in 2008—just in time for the housing market to crash. To get through the recession, they had to be creative and flexible with the business, and they've kept that mentality in subsequent years.
The company routinely goes above and beyond to give its clients a memorable experience. "When somebody comes into our store, we send them a handwritten card with a magnet and a gift card to get free ice cream from a local ice cream shop," Capell says. "Everybody in the store signs the card, and we mail it to them. People like that, because most people no longer get handwritten notes in the mail."
They also keep in touch throughout the installation process via a string of email progress updates called the "Ducks in a Row" series. They send clients appointment reminders via text—an idea Capell swiped from the medical industry. "The way my brain is wired, I'm looking at any situation and trying to see, What could I do?" he says.
At the end of a job, the company follows up with a call and text to ensure things went well. "We also have a gift bag that we deliver upon completion," Capell says. "We call it their 'Movie Night In' to enjoy their new floors from Capell Flooring." Clients receive a Redbox rental, popcorn, candy and hardwood floor cleaner.
Capell is in a constant search for ways to improve the business and its processes, and his biggest piece of advice is to stay "teachable." "Try to learn and be open to realizing that the way you've always done it is not necessarily correct," he says. "There could be better and more efficient ways to do it."
Getting creative with marketing is one of Capell's favorite parts of his job, but nothing beats the final results after helping a client choose the flooring in their home. "When you're working with things in housing, you are working with people's hopes and dreams," Capell says. "Flooring is part of what they see, they walk on it all day—when we can make a house look new again, that is really exciting for me."
Unique Hardwood | Costa Mesa, Calif.
Number of employees: 5
Year founded: 2018
Annual revenue: $3 million
One look around Unique Hardwood's art-gallery-inspired showroom in Orange County and the company's modus operandi is clear: "We're selling luxury," says Owner Wendy Meltzer.
Meltzer has been in the business of selling high-end flooring for over 20 years. She cut her teeth working the books and later with designers at her own flooring retail business in West L.A. After selling the business, she was approached to become an exclusive dealer for Legno Bastone, a European wide-plank flooring supplier. She packed up and moved to Costa Mesa, where she put her "nose to the grindstone" to build Unique Hardwood from the ground up.
The company's core philosophy, Meltzer says, is relationship building. At Unique Hardwood, 90% of the clientele are designers, and Meltzer has molded her business to be a haven for a designer's needs. This has included providing educational presentations for designers' staff, custom samples, consultations and a PIN number to have 24/7 access to Unique Hardwood's showroom. "We want to be their partner," Meltzer says. "We pride ourselves on honesty and integrity, and we always recommend the right product for their job."
Meltzer works side-by-side with her daughter, Marissa, whom she says brings a perspective that complements her own and has had a huge impact on the business. "Marissa's really good at handling when designers come in and say they want something 'warm' or 'cool,'" Meltzer says. "She knows what to show them. And I'm really good at explaining how we do our installations, what the flooring is made of, and making them feel comfortable that they're buying the right product."
Unique Hardwood offers installation in-house, and their crew loose-lays the boards on every job so designers can see it laid out before it's installed. "Without our installation crew, I wouldn't have a business," Meltzer says. "It's a team effort."
The Unique Hardwood team is always on the lookout for new designer partnerships. One of its most successful initiatives was hosting a virtual cocktail hour for clients that attracted a number of high-profile designers and helped to foster new partnerships for Unique Hardwood. "It just took off," says Meltzer of the online event, which was a brainchild of Marissa's during the pandemic. "A designer who came to our first virtual cocktail party is one of our best repeat clients."
In mid-2022, Unique Hardwood settled into SoCo, Orange County's central home design and shopping center. Surrounded by other luxury products and services, Unique Hardwood is right at home.
"We truly love what we do and the incredibly interesting and talented people we work with every day," Meltzer says.
Costen Floors | Richmond, Va.
Number of employees: 105
Year founded: 1948
Annual revenue: $36 million
Costen Floors has been a retail flooring institution in Virginia for 75 years. Its work can be found in such landmarks as the Quirk Hotel, the VCU Siegel Center and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts—not to mention countless generations of homes across the Tri-Cities. Its secret to longevity? "Treat people with respect and how they want to be treated," says President Tripp Costen, the third-generation Costen to oversee the storied business. "And hire someone smarter than you."
It's a simple key to a complex business that has weathered decades of varied trends and economies and managed to stay true to itself and its customers. The company was founded by Ralph Costen Sr., Tripp's grandfather. "This is where I was babysat," says Tripp, who grew up working closely with his father, Ralph Jr., before taking over the business himself following Ralph Jr.'s recent retirement.
The company was built on the back of hardwood flooring and Ralph Sr.'s philosophy of doing "quality work for a fair price." It now offers multiple flooring products and works closely with its vendor partners to ensure its staff is educated about different products, while also training new employees one-on-one with an expert in their particular department.
The company manages five locations, and its flagship is a 30,000-square-foot brick facility in Henrico, Va., with a huge selection of flooring.
The company's vast experience helped it come through the tumultuous pandemic-impacted recent years, which served as a reminder of the value in not being too rigid in structure, Tripp says. "Being agile and able to move has been helpful," Tripp says. "You order a product you've been using for two years now and they tell you it's going to be six months out. Alright, now what? Roll with it. And don't get down about it."
"I think being diversified and going into different markets, not just builder versus multifamily, but outside a 50-mile radius, has been helpful," Tripp adds.
And as anyone who has grown up working in a family business can attest, it's not always the easiest experience. "Thanksgiving dinner is really difficult over a financial statement," Tripp laughs. "You have to approach it with mutual respect and try to pull the rope and remind each other you're going in the same direction."
Now at the helm, Tripp aims to continue building on the foundation of Costen Floors, improving its processes and supplying the floors for the next generation of homes in the Tri-Cities—with "quality work for a fair price."
"My favorite part is when I'm helping a customer get what they want, and defining needs versus wants in a certain situation, and seeing them happy with it at the end," says Tripp. "That's always nice—to go back to a job after it's done. That's the most gratifying."
Samurai Hardwood Flooring Inc. | Nelson, B.C.
Number of employees: 9
Year founded: 2012
Annual revenue: $2.5 million
Nicole Wood has a deep understanding of the value of good communication, something she finds vital as she works with wood flooring clients and runs Samurai Hardwood Flooring full-time with her husband, Sunny. "It's a lot of authentic listening—really listening," she says.
Samurai Hardwood Flooring started out as an installation and refinishing service, but the husband-and-wife team soon saw an opportunity to fill a need for retail service and also have control over the quality of the products it uses.
When it comes to helping its majority-residential clients find the right floor, the Samurai Hardwood Flooring team uses a simple and effective questionnaire checklist: Color, Texture, Function and Budget. "It came from a little bit of coaching from some higher-end product lines that we've worked with," Nicole says of the approach. "I also taught hairdressing, so I broke down the approach to be, 'What color do you love? What speaks to you? What texture fits your lifestyle?' And then really listening to what the client wants and needs."
The company also offers detailed communication at every other stage of the process, developing a pamphlet for what a project will entail, as well as a pamphlet for how clients can prepare the job site. "We were running into situations where job sites weren't ready—clothing was still everywhere, the closets were full of stuff," Nicole says. "We wanted to set us up for success, and help educate people on how to prepare their home ahead of time."
Sunny, with his background as a custom home builder, is also a wealth of knowledge for clients and the company's employees. "Working with our team is our favorite part," Nicole says. "We are a kind crew and love a little bit of fun, so we offer 'Flooring after Hours Events' to collaborate with our peers, mentors and homeowners."
The company's goal is to continue to grow into a hardwood flooring leader in its community. This year, it brought its stair, refinishing, installation, sales and management services all under one roof, becoming its area's largest flooring location. In an effort to give back, Samurai has partnered with Tree Canada to plant 25 trees for every solid or engineered floor it supplies and installs, and it also sponsors a youth soccer team—the Samurai Flooriers.
Ultimately, the company wants its clients and partners to feel great about their wood floors, and that means feeling heard.
"They're buying happiness," says Nicole, "and we want them to be happy at the end."
Floors By The Shore | Belmar, N.J.
Number of employees: 25
Year founded: 1984
Annual revenue: $5 million
Adam Bissey recalls doing an estimate for a client who was renovating her kitchen. Bissey takes pride in the extra lengths he and his team go to inspect a site for moisture issues—but it didn't take much inspecting to spot the standing water in this home's basement. When Bissey alerted the homeowner to the problem, she waved it off, explaining that she was prioritizing the kitchen work. "We walked away from the job," Bissey says.
The story illustrates a mindset that has made Bissey's business, Floors By The Shore, a trusted staple in its community—it's not merely a matter of selling wood floors, it's a matter of selling integrity. "I think that's our niche —doing things the right way and standing behind them," Bissey says.
The retail aspect of Bissey's flooring business happened organically as he was looking for a way to grow the company. He'd seen one too many people measuring a floor who'd never installed one, and "I wanted to not have a middle man between me and the customer," Bissey explains.
He jumped into retail with both feet, bringing with him a meticulous attention to detail, particularly when it comes to cleanliness on the job. "I'm just naturally kind of organized and clean," Bissey says. "It has helped grow our business, because it shows you care about the client's home and want to keep it as nice as possible."
Educating clients about proper floor care and maintenance is also a key part of the philosophy of Floors By The Shore. To that end, Bissey developed a Floors By The Shore-brand cleaning product. "It keeps our name in front of the customer, and pretty much everyone who does a floor with us gets it as a parting gift," Bissey says.
Educating employees is also key, and Floors By The Shore staff have the opportunity to attend Bona training schools and also undergo training on the job.
Bissey also makes a point of building relationships with other trades—his phone's contacts list is filled with trusted professionals he can recommend should an issue outside his specialty pop up on a site, and he often gets recommended, as well.
Bissey saw his showroom as a chance to stretch his creative muscles, and he used the four rooms to showcase four specific flooring offerings the store sells and installs. "In addition, I have a work area where I focus on creating custom wood samples for our many site-finished projects we tackle," he says.
The business is growing fast, and Bissey has plans to expand to a larger location in the near future. He credits the growth to the company's laser focus on "the little details."
"It's about never really giving up and focusing on quality," Bissey says. "Our prices are the highest in the area, there's no doubt about it."