DEER PARK, N.Y.—Salesmaster Flooring Solutions, one of the country’s leading distributors of commercial flooring products and installation supplies, is expanding into the wood business by partnering with Joel Lefkowitz, former president of Hoboken Wood Floors, at one time the industry’s largest wholesaler. Lefkowitz will serve as the president of the aptly named HW Flooring, which is being billed as an affiliate of Salesmaster. He has put together an experienced team of wood flooring veterans that includes Marty Ackerman, who was Lefkowitz’ vice president of sales at Hoboken; Ken Reilly, who most recently served as hardwood sales manager at Apollo.
Distributing in New Jersey, and Bill Rice, who comes over from Bostik, where he has been Northeast territory manager. Lefkowitz commented, “Experience has taught us what it takes to be successful in the wood flooring business. With our combined industry experience and knowledge, HW Flooring will provide faster, personalized service for wood floor covering retailers and contractors serving the commercial, residential and builder marketplaces. Our goal is to be is to become a major force in the wood flooring business in the Northeast.”
On the obstacles involved in getting a new company started in the current economy, he noted, pricing is a problem, as well as getting margins, but the good thing is, “when you’re starting out in a bad economy, at least you can keep your overhead down so you can manage through it. It’s probably the best time to start a new company right now. There are a lot of weak players out there. It’s a good opportunity to start when the economy is bad. It can only go up, it can’t go down.”
HW Flooring will initially launch with the following brands: Appalachian (Canada), Ark, DuChateau, Graf Wood Floors, Mannington, Shamrock and Somerset, along with its own HW Collection. Products include solid and engineered, both in unfinished and prefinished styles. Product is fully stocked in Long Island, N.Y., with another stocking warehouse expected to open in New Jersey about the first of next year.
HW’s territory includes the New York metro area, New Jersey, Long Island, upstate New York up to Duchess and Putnam counties, and parts of Connecticut. The company will also handle installation and underlayment materials including foam and adhesive from companies such as Bostik, Diversified Foam, Mapei and Power Nail, and other accessories.
Steve Kurtz, president of Salesmaster, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary, said the venture will make the distributor a more significant player in the Northeast, telling FCNews he has high expectations. “We didn’t go into this for small, incremental add-ons to our business. We’re want this to be a substantial part of our business going forward. We’re looking for HW to be a major player in the wood flooring business.”
As such, Salesmaster has invested heavily in inventory, infrastructure and trucking to support the venture.
Just how substantial? Kurtz declined to project the actual scope of HW Flooring going forward. “It’s hard to put a dollar amount on our plans because I’m sure the business will grow incrementally as we add brands.”
All wood products will be handled through the HW Flooring sales organization. However, Salesmaster employs four full-time A&D people who will be coordinating with HW to get specifications in the commercial, high rise and new home markets. “We are hoping to be wood consultants to both residential and commercial flooring companies,” Kurtz said.
The affiliation between Salesmaster and HW represented a strong opportunity for both parties once Lefkowitz left Allstate Flooring Distributors earlier this year. “I reached out to Joel when I realized he was no longer actively employed in the business,” Kurtz said. “and told him our company needed to be in the wood business. Joel brings contacts on both the manufacturer and customer end. Once we made our intentions known, manufacturers were lining up at the door. That’s when I realized it made a lot of sense.
He added, the affiliation “rounds out Salesmaster’s product offering. Through the resources of the two companies, HW has a strong, experienced management team in place and provides the advantages of logistics, financial stability and superior customer service.”
Kurtz wasn’t entirely surprised at the level of interest in the venture. “There are a number of reasons why people are excited. Joel knows how to drive wood business, and how to build brands for manufacturers. On the other hand, we know how to service and support our customers, perform for our vendors and make sure the products are delivered on a timely basis.”
The Somerset line has Kurtz especially excited. “It is well received by the retail and commercial communities. Its quality is second to none; its service is excellent, and it offers a product that is in demand. It is also a U.S. manufacturer that makes solid and engineered flooring.”
Lefkowitz agreed, saying, “In my opinion, Somerset is the best prefinished wood manufacturing company out there as far as quality is concerned. We are going to have a diverse group of products available and will be able to offer everything to everybody, as far as wood flooring goes, from unfinished to prefinished.”
The Mannington wood line holds a special place in Kurtz’ heart because the manufacturer got Salesmaster started in the wood industry with its commercial and builder products some years ago. “Now we are looking to expand that business. Joel and his sales team are very familiar with the Mannington business.”
For more information on HW Flooring, call 800.234.1717.