Retail education: That old kid had class

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by Kelly Kramer

Edward R. Murrow, William Randolph Hearst and David Brinkley are just a few names that changed and enhanced America’s history just by their observing and reporting of it. Al Wahnon is the flooring industry’s giant in journalism that rivals those names.

Can you just imagine what Al saw and reported to us in his nearly 56 years of publishing floor covering newspapers? You have to love your work and industry very much to do it that long and do it better than any other. In fact, I’m told that just a few days before his death, Al, who was in recovery, was talking about getting his next editorial and column written for what would have been this issue.

With Al’s longevity and working right up to the day he died, to use an old Western adage, “He died with his boots on.” Besides having a wonderful family life, there is no greater thing to be blessed with than loving your work right down to the very last day. The old saying, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” comes to mind. So, you could say Al truly never worked a day in his entire long life. I’m so envious!

One good man

Back in April of 2005, I wrote a column in honor of Al’s 50 years as publisher/editor in the flooring industry. Here’s a few paragraphs from that column that seem appropriate in this celebration of his wonderful, long life:

“Industry icon, gentleman, editor, publisher, industry historian, (WFCA) Hall of Famer, Washington D.C. flooring expert are just a few of the hats Al has worn over his 50 years in the industry. The endowment that has mostly impressed me about Al is he has always been a nice person to me.

“To give you a personal example of what a stand-up guy Al is, I must tell you how we first met. My first published columns were with Floor Covering Weekly. At one time it was the best flooring publication out there—that was until Al left and started Floor Covering News. When I first started writing I really enjoyed being known nationally as a ‘So Called Expert.’ But the Weekly would only publish my columns about every six or seven issues. I needed an outlet that could promote my training manuals and layout rulers more often.

“That’s when I confided in my mentor Warren Tyler. Warren is the top sales trainer in the industry, so who else would I have consult me but the best? After talking to Warren at length, I asked if he would mind if I, a competitor, approached his paper about writing a regular column for FCNews. Warren told me Al worked tirelessly to bring his readers the best knowledge possible and always kept an open mind.

“So then I wrote to Al to introduce myself and told him I had already talked to Warren about the idea. The first thing Al said to me on the phone was something that I will never forget. He said, ‘Kid, you got a lot of class calling Warren first. That means a lot to me because it shows ethics and respect.’

“It was that comment that let me know I would be writing for a stand-up guy and a class act.”

To Al’s family and friends (especially his partner, Michael Blick) you have my most heartfelt condolences. And please know that Al’s life work helped and touched an entire industry.

We have truly lost an “old kid with a lot of class.”

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