LB: I know that Deluxe Carpet is an East Side icon. How and when did you get involved in the business?
Phil: I worked at carpet sales part-time in high school and really enjoyed it. When I completed my tour in Viet Nam, I was lucky enough to come back to the Twin Cities to finish my Army time. I met some great people and got acquainted with Steve, my business partner. His father, Harold, was going to retire and sell the business…it was an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up, so we bought it! It was owned by Steve’s grandfather before then and originally located at Payne and Jenks. The store has been at this location since 1953. We’ve been a neighborhood business for 66 years. There’s a lot of history with the company and it’s rewarding to be part of that history.
LB: What in your past best prepared you for owning a company and this business?
Phil: I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee and was taught good work ethics. I worked at my Aunt’s construction company in high school, but even before then, I remember doing things that earned me money and how excited I was to pay for things myself. I shoveled snow, mowed lawns, and would even pack up “stuff” in my little wagon and go around the neighborhood selling and delivering the goods. Being responsible and taking pride in my work was a huge catalyst for me.
LB: What about being a business on the East Side? As many businesses have moved out or closed up, you remain strong in a location that could be seen as an obstacle.
Phil: It has been interesting watching the neighborhood grow older and more diversified. But much of our business still comes from our past customers in the area who continue to recommend us to their friends…and we are always grateful for their support. We are not in a shopping strip or mall where people can just be driving by, see us and stop to shop. We are a destination point. You have to want to come here…to this location…to our store. We know that people have went out of their way to visit us and we are going to make sure they have a great experience.
LB: How do you create that “great experience”?
Phil: I love to see people happy when they know they are getting a good deal and value. One of our best moves was to join the buying group, Flooring America about 15 years ago. As more super stores emerged, we needed a way to stay competitive and Flooring America gave us that edge. There are over 2,400 store fronts in US and Canada making Flooring America #1 in the world for flooring products. Home Depot is #2. We carry an inventory of high-quality carpet, vinyl, laminate, hardwood and tile flooring for the lowest prices…and that makes people happy! Along with the best installers, we can provide the service that exceeds our competition.
LB: Tell me about the installers….what role do they play in your customer’s experience?
Phil: They are the icing on the cake. Many of the crew members have been with us for 20-25 years. We have 10 crews that believe in showing up when they say they will…are honest and care about doing their job right the first time. They continue to stay educated and knowledgeable about everything from the latest adhesives to the carpet’s stretchiness. They are the reason we offer the absolute Best Warranty – Lifetime on Installation. It’s something we all take great pride in.
LB: Most long term successful companies have a philosophy/mission to which they aspire. What is your most important practice that gives Deluxe Carpet its personality?
Phil: Always tell the truth, follow through and take care of any issues right away. It’s important to not get defensive. First take a look at yourself. Don’t overlook the small stuff. Get the job done no matter what it takes – sacrifice. It’s this “take care of attitude” that starts when the customer enters our store and remains with the relationship long after the work is completed. That’s our unique value proposition.
LB: What goals have you set for the future?
Phil: Being well diversified has helped our business survive and thrive. Retail and new construction was the mainstay of our business for years. Over the last several years we have reached into the foreclosure market and this year furnished more than 300 homes with new flooring in preparation for going on market. We are in the process of expanding and doing more commercial. And, as new construction ramps up, we will again be working with many of our builder clientele. But our retail customers are still the heart of our business and we look forward to helping them update and improve their homes. We will be offering some fabulous new looks and some awesome values in 2014.
LB: There’s many hours spent running a small business and plenty of stress to go along with those hours. Where do you find peace, fun and relaxation?
Phil: Church and family. I’ve been married to my wife, Darla, for 34 years and she works with us at Deluxe. We have 4 children and 12 grandkids. We go to movies, do a little fishing and watch the kids grow! I’m also blessed with my Mom and we all enjoy spending quality time together
LB: There are lessons to be learned in being an entrepreneur. What “words of wisdom” or advice would you share with us?
Phil: First, I think having respect for others and appreciating all we can learn from each other is the core of human dignity and growth. Second, practice gratitude….over time we learn to weather the worst, but it’s truly being grateful for the best of times that brings us joy. And third, really like what you are doing…don’t just do it for the money. Be passionate about the process and the life experience that comes with it.
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