By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — The flooring business has changed in the past 20 years, resulting in savvy customers and many choices in natural and synthetic products.
Towne Flooring and Kitchen co-owner Michael Archer has seen the changes in the industry.
“It used to be you would have about 75 percent carpet and about 25 percent other flooring choices — mostly vinyl,” Archer said. “But now we do about 35 percent in carpet and the rest of the flooring is wood, laminate, vinyl and stone. There are so many choices now. You can get a laminate that looks just like real wood with the grain in detail.”
Archer said the customer has changed as well. There was a time, when his family first entered the flooring business, in which investors would speculate on real estate. Many houses were purchased with the intent to resell them for a profit.
“Back then we would get a contract to do a whole house in beige carpet,” Archer said. “A couple of months later, a new homeowner would come in and shop for carpet. We already had the measurements, because we had just installed carpet in that house.”
According to Archer, most upgrades are now made by homeowners who are interested in a long-term investment and personal comfort.
“The customer is much savvier now than they used to be,” Archer said. “You have HDTV (a do-it-yourself television network about home improvement) and Lowes and Home Depot, and the Internet. Now, people can look up anything. They come in and pretty much know what they want.”
The flooring consumer is more concerned with value and cost than they were when Archer first began selling flooring, he said.
“People do not charge their flooring nearly as much as they used to,” Archer said. “A lot of people have the money they need to do the renovation. Gone are the days of charging and no money down — no payments for three years. People understand that credit is not good and will cause debt.”
Archer’s father, Olin Archer, owned and operated Archer Building Center in the 1980s. He sold the lumber yard and opened a flooring business.
“Those were the days when you wanted to grow a good business and sell it for profit,” Archer said. “He had an offer he couldn’t refuse. So, he sold it and bought the flooring business.”
In less than 20 years, Towne Flooring and Kitchen has grown from a carpet store to one of the largest flooring stores between Albany and Binghamton. In 2008, the company added the kitchen and bath element, which includes appliances, cabinets, counters and built-ins. In 2010, the business moved to the Oneonta Plaza on state Route 7, where its showroom features 20,000 square feet of kitchen and flooring products, including cabinets, counters and built-ins as well as flooring in wood, brushed concrete, vinyl, laminate, stone and carpet made of various material.
“The products now are so much better than they used to be,” Archer said. “The carpets are much better, more stain-resistant and they wear better. They use a machine like an ink-jet printer to put a picture of stone or wood on flooring, and it looks so real. There are so many more choices in flooring now. We have upgraded our solid services to almost double from what it was five or six years ago.”