By Steven Feldman O’Krent Floors, a 106-year-old retailer in San Antonio, is the newest member of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA), a group that includes 46 of the biggest retailers in North America.
Sam O’Krent, the fourth-generation owner, and his nephew, Jason O’Krent, attended the group’s spring meeting at Barnsley Resort here as guests of the NFA, which is standard procedure, much like rushing a fraternity. The only difference was that the O’Krents were invited as a prospective member. The idea is to see if it’s a fit on both sides.
“It’s an honor to be part of this group,” said Sam O’Krent, who had been an Abbey dealer for two and a half decades. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. We have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Abbey; they’ve been a great partner for 25 years. They’ve been very good to us. Leaving was not an easy decision.”
But at the end of the day, O’Krent said joining the NFA was the right decision. “We had to think about our future—what would be in the best interests of our company,” O’Krent said. “We are growing. Jason is the fifth generation of this 100-plus-year-old company. He is 37 years old and has a lot to learn. But he has the energy and the drive for continued growth.”
Those traits will surely help in the transition, O’Krent said. “The whole premise of NFA is helping each other. So there’s an opportunity for Jason to learn from some of the best floor covering retailers in the country.”
O’Krent said he is looking forward to the networking opportunities. “As we grow and experience growth pains, chances are someone sitting around the table has experienced the same pain points in the past,” he noted.
But it’s not a one-way street. O’Krent Floors can add to the group as well. The company is currently tracking 35% over 2019, and 2019 was a record year for the retailer. “After being in business for 106 years, and for me personally, 40 years, we’ve seen a lot, had our successes, made a lot of mistakes and hopefully learned from those mistakes. If we can help someone out we certainly don’t mind sharing.”
O’Krent said he was impressed with what he saw at the spring conference. “In a word, it was the camaraderie. I always heard and knew these were the biggest and best flooring retailers in the country. But what we saw was a group of genuine people who were there to help each other out. And I would say we are honored to be part of this group of people.”
Deb DeGraaf, who is an NFA board member, has known O’Krent for quite some time as a WFCA board member. She said she knew he was a fit simply by watching him interact with the members. “I have not seen, myself included, anybody that feels so comfortable in a group of people that he’s not a part of. That is what is so awesome about this group—there are people that have forged lifelong relationships. Just watching him interact, putting conversation out there, he’s a good fit.”
Open to change
O’Krent Floors takes great pride in having one of the most attractive flooring showrooms in the country. “The focus has always been on the customer and trying to provide the best possible experience,” O’Krent said. “The building speaks for itself, and what’s inside is how we try to position our products. We would welcome any NFA member to come down and take a look.”
The retailer is going through a major renovation right now as it goes from one private label to another. “We have been in this building for 20 years,” O’Krent said. “When we moved in, 70% of our business was dedicated to carpet; that has completely changed. So now we are taking the opportunity to redo our showroom and dedicate 70% of the business to hard surface.”