For most retailers, a serious deadline involves making certain a home is ready for a family to move in, while those who do commercial jobs might be working against the clock in preparing a meeting room or auditorium for a special event.
But laying specially designed carpet for the Pope to walk on, for his chair to sit upon and for him to perform a special mass—is an opportunity most flooring companies probably will never see.
For Ted Resnick of the Flemington Department Store in Flemington, N.J.—who provided the carpeting for two events during the Pope’s most recent visit to the Archdiocese of New York—this is was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Resnick didn’t grow into this job overnight. His organization was eminently qualified for the job and was chosen from among a number of competitors by the Archdiocese of New York to play a key role in Pope Benedict XVI’s April 2008 visit to New York and New Jersey.
Floor Covering News sat down with Resnick about how he came to provide carpet for the Pope, not to mention a number of other high-profile jobs from around the world.
How did you get into a position where you could pitch a job like this?
The kind of event work we do is not for the faint of heart. First of all, we do top quality work for high-profile events, sometimes with little or no notice. So we knew whatever the demands of the job, we’d be able to take care of it.
But we weren’t always this big or this capable. This takes the kind of resources and planning that you only gather overtime as you build your business. I started in the floor covering business in 1967 on a small scale. Our store sold, primarily, clothing and furniture, and a few 9 x 12 rugs. I built it up gradually over many years to our current level. Our special event business didn’t begin until Oct. 30, 2001, when we had the opportunity to lay out the red carpet for the president of China. That led to other high profile events—the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, the Tribeca Film Festival—we’ve been everywhere from Las Vegas to the Carribean islands to South America. Every time a head of state goes to the state department in Washington they walk on our carpet.
Some events lead to others. We have provided carpet for several presidents as other heads of state, as well as many celebrities such as Elton John and Mariah Carey.
When we found out the Pope was coming, we thought helping his visit would be the ultimate job—so we started discussions with the Archdiocese of New York.
For which part of the Pope’s visit did you provide carpet?
We provided gold carpet for his visit to St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.—the gold cross was so big it could be seen from commercial airliners flying overhead—and white carpet for the celebration of Holy Mass at Yankee Stadium.
In the carpeting business, gold can take many forms. How did you pick the color for the Pope?
The Archdiocese of New York sent us a sample and asked us to match it. We went to our manufacturer and came up with a unique carpet it called Pope Gold.
Aren’t you making pieces of this carpet available to the public?
Yes. Anyone who wants a piece of this carpet can have it for the cost of shipping. Since both jobs were huge, we still have enough to make several thousand of them. So we’ll probably be sending them out for years.
Our original intent was to donate pieces of the carpet to churches in our area, but the news coverage of the events resulted in requests from all over the country.
It must feel good to be giving something back to the community.
We’ve had several interesting stories, including a woman who wanted her son to be married standing on the carpet, and a dying man whose last moments were eased by the presence of the carpet in his hospital room.
Did you donate the job as well?
Yes. While we’ve done carpeting for presidents and heads of states, I consider the Pope the world’s most powerful and prestigious person. So we jumped at the chance and were happy to help out.
Tell us about the actual operations involved in these kinds of jobs.
First, your business has to be of a certain size. Our overall employee roster tops 130. We have 25 trucks—six dedicated to the floor covering department, although we can borrow from the others—and even our own garbage truck.
Since we do a lot of work in New York, we are also familiar with traffic patterns, so we do everything we can to minimize transportation headaches.
Obviously, you need an event department workspace that’s rather large. Our staging area is more or less 15,000 dedicated square feet in a 175,000-square-foot store.
It’s best to use your own employees rather than contractors since they are familiar with the way you work and loyal. Most of our employees have been with us for about 10 years.
And, you have to be prepared to do good work in extraordinary circumstances. For example, for the New York tree lighting ceremony, because of the timing of television coverage of the event, we had to lay 500 square yards of white carpet on the ice at Rockefeller Center between 8:30 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.
We treat it like a football game, using 18 people, and are able to get the job done in six minutes. There is no time for errors. And running a seaming iron on top of ice provides its own challenges.
And we believe it’s important to be environmentally responsible, so we recycle as much carpet as possible. Frankly, a lot of our carpet undergoes lots of wear and tear during one event, so I’d estimate only 50% of it can be reused. If we can cut it into smaller sizes, we resell it at about $1 per yard. This can be a good deal for someone looking for high quality at a low price. We also deal with a carpet recycling center in New Jersey. So we recycle as much as circumstances permit.
What are some of your most unusual moments?
Of course, the events for the Pope top everything. But we have had some unusual things happen.
Once, in the islands we had to carpet an entire city block with trees along the street. We needed buckets of sand. I sent someone to the beach to get some not knowing it was illegal to take sand off the beaches. I took responsibility, and somehow we worked it all out. I believe we put the sand back.
On another occasion I set my suitcase full of carpeting tools down in an airport. A woman thought it was hers and tried to pick it up. Since it weighed 150 pounds, she thought someone had possibly put a bomb in her suitcase.
What are your secrets of success?
First, we have an absolute commitment to quality. When I first got into the business, I was appalled at the jobs some vendors would provide and customers would accept. So we always strive for the best possible job.
Through the years, the standards keep getting even higher as you develop a reputation and are called on for larger and larger jobs, often with shorter and shorter lead times, and sometimes, as with the ice at Rockefeller Center, some unusual job requirements as well.
In addition to quality, you have to be adaptable, particularly through changes in specifications, which, in public events with lots of players, can change at any time.
Finally, there’s hard work.
Where did you learn your work ethic?
Part of it is from the family. But for me, I really learned what hard work was from wrestling. I’ve been a lifetime participant in the sport, both as a wrestler and coach.
In wrestling, when I was still a kid, I learned the value of giving it everything you have—and I’ve carried that over into our floor covering business. No matter how hard the competition works, I work harder.
My lifelong association with the sport got me into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. That’s not on the same level as providing carpeting for the Pope, but it’s still one of my proudest accomplishments.