May 9/16, 2016; Volume 30, Number 23
By Ken Ryan
Bel Air, Md.—Spartan Surfaces, the fast growing specialty commercial flooring distributor, christened its new headquarters here on May 5, a 70,000-square-foot facility that includes 30,000 feet of warehouse space.
Nearly 200 people attended the open house that was coupled with the company’s twice-yearly sales meeting. Spartan Surfaces has about 75 employees, with 30 working in Bel Air and the rest spread throughout its sales territories on the East Coast, in the Southeast and Midwest.
Started in 2007 with three employees and a territory that spanned southern New Jersey to northern Virginia, today Spartan Surfaces covers 20 states, from Connecticut through Florida and Louisiana to Michigan.
“We started out as an agent and then we morphed into a distributor,” said Kevin Jablon, Spartan Surfaces founder and president. (The name, he said, comes from the “Spartans,” the mascot of Jablon’s alma mater, York College of Pennsylvania. His company exudes that rah-rah college spirit in its approach to work and fun. “We work hard and we play had,” Jablon said.
The new headquarters is contemporary, open and flexible design with a large showpiece break room/conference area where both meetings and entertaining can take place. Jablon said the building more resembles an architectural firm than a commercial distributor. However, there is 30,000 feet of warehouse space that stores products from its 30 vendors. At one time this warehouse space was used for the printing and distribution of The Aegis, a local newspaper that is now part of Tribune Publishing. In addition to the Maryland corporate office and warehouse, Spartan Surfaces has showrooms in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with plans to open a new showroom in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
A fresh approach
Jablon said Spartan Surfaces’ business model and approach to market is very different. Unlike many wholesalers that got their start in carpet and expanded into hard surfaces, Spartan got its start on the hard surface side, with a heavy emphasis on resilient flooring. “There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time,” he explained. “We were fortunate to be in the right space before LVT got hot.”
Spartan’s initial focus was selling to the A&D community; it built relationships with architects and designers and then began courting flooring contractors, facilities managers and other end users.
Jeremy Whipple, chief operating officer, said the company targets high-end specifiers. As such, its average sales ticket is significantly larger than the average commercial distributor. “The best path to market to sell commercial flooring is our goal, and that is going after projects,” he said.
Spartan Surfaces has facilitated its growth with mergers and acquisitions. Earlier this year it merged Rockwell Flooring Solutions into the Spartan Surfaces portfolio to bolster its presence in southern Virginia, West Virginia and eastern Tennessee, adding Bolyu Contract and Ecore Commercial Flooring to its portfolio. Ecore, which supplies a diverse range of products including recycled rubber, has been an important ally for Spartan as it moves deeper into the healthcare field. Jablon cited Ecore’s rx system as being “revolutionary” for the healthcare and senior living markets. Forest rx features a recycled rubber backing, is reputed to be as quiet as carpet and is ergonomic and safe.
“Our Southeast expansion was very much driven by Ecore,” Jablon said. “Without that line we don’t make that expansion into nine states in the Southeast.”
In addition the Rockwell Flooring Solutions merger, Spartan recently
acquired Contract Surfaces, helping it expand its footprint into Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Jablon said if the right opportunities exist Spartan Surfaces will expand again. “But we won’t force it; we’ll be very strategic about it. We feel like the market is strong and that there are a lot of opportunities out there.”