Flooring dealers regroup after Hurricane Ian

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hurricane ianJohn Taylor has lived in Fort Myers, Fla., for 58 years and dealt with his share of natural disasters. However, Hurricane Ian was something altogether different than anything he previously experienced.

“I believe each storm has its own personality,” said Taylor, who owns and operates Carpet One and ProSource stores in Fort Myers (three), Naples and Bonita Springs. “With this one you could just feel it was different—the winds were stronger, more intense, lasted longer. This was by far the worst storm we have ever been through.”

Hurricane Ian, which struck Southwest Florida on Sept. 28 as a strong Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 MPH, will go down as the costliest storm in Florida history—and the deadliest storm to hit the state since the Labor Day storm of 1935 (before hurricanes were named).

Flooring retailers and distributors operating in Southwest Florida were impacted by the storm both personally and in terms of lost business. For example, Taylor said both of his homes (his daughter lives in one next door) experienced water damage of up to 1 foot of flooding. “It doesn’t matter if it is an inch or 10 feet, [it creates] so much damage because this water is nasty and as a result you have to rip out baseboards, drywall, kitchen cabinets. Anything it touches you have to get rid of. Our subdivision got hit hard. About 85% of the homes got flooded. I had life jackets in the house, but we have dogs as well to care for.”

Impacts to Taylor’s flooring businesses ranged from structural damage to power outages and loss of internet for several days. Thankfully, all 70 of his employees were accounted for. Some took vacation time to deal with personal matters caused by the hurricane.

Elsewhere, Naples, Fla.-based Hadinger Flooring, with 55 employees, was closed for three days before reopening to the public on Oct. 3. “First and foremost, all of our employees, friends and family are safe—and we are thankful,” Susan Hadinger, president, told FCNews. “However, we do have several employees who experienced flooding, storm surge and/or roof damage.”

Susan’s parents, Tom and Judy Hadinger, weren’t as fortunate. They lost their home of 30-plus years. “They wanted to stay put but we made them leave once the mandatory evacuation order came out,” Susan Hadinger said. “The devastation down here has not been overstated by the news. It’s like nothing I have seen. I have heard countless stories from people escaping their homes in kayaks, swimming out, etc. One of our salespeople stayed in his home until he saw a wall of water coming his way; then he and his wife got in their car and escaped the home to spend the remainder of the storm in a parking garage.”

Hadinger Flooring of Fort Myers, meanwhile, sustained minor damage to the roof and air conditioning units along with a few other cosmetic issues. “As of Oct. 6, we’re still without power or water but hope to have both restored by the end of the week,” said Scott Browne, president/owner. “We are running our business to the best of our ability to service current customers and those who experienced loss during the hurricane. We’re very fortunate that our team is healthy and safe. A few team members experienced significant flooding along with wind damage to their homes and complete loss of vehicles. Everyone has a safe place to live, but many will be displaced for months.”

Wayne Wiles Floor Coverings, located on Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers, received 2 feet of water that forced it to gut its showroom. The 30-year retailer hoped to have operations back by the week of Oct. 10 once power/Wi-Fi were restored.

Abbey Carpet & Floor’s flagship store located in Naples, Fla., was more fortunate—it closed for just three days and reopened Oct. 3.

Spike in replacement sales

Catastrophic weather events like Hurricane Ian inevitably lead to a crush of business for flooring retailers. In this case, even before insurance adjusters have fully assessed the situation—much less written checks—calls were coming in.

Just as power and Wi-Fi were being restored in his Fort Myers Carpet One store, Taylor said phones started “blowing up” with customers wanting to get on a waiting list. “I even had a customer on [hard-hit] Captiva call to get atop the list.”

Likewise, the day she reopened Susan Hadinger began getting calls from contractors. “There’s no saving the floors—nothing survives a flood,” Hadinger explained. “We are already seeing a surge in business. In fact, the weekend after the storm we received phone calls from people who wanted to get their orders in. A lot of customers are asking for the same products they had before the storm.”

Browne of Hadinger Flooring of Fort Myers said customers who experienced minor flooding will be served first because major loss claims will take months due to insurance limitations and supply chain interruptions. “Our expectation is that the replacement/remodel segment will be very busy for the foreseeable future.”

Distributors in limbo

Wholesale distributors like Cain & Bultman and CFD Flooring who service southwest Florida said in some cases they were unable to make shipments to retailers in the areas affected by Hurricane Ian.

“We service about 40-plus retailers in Collier and Lee counties, but logistically we can’t get product into those affected areas,” said Shawn Moloney, vice president, residential sales, Cain & Bultman, Jacksonville. “We’ve also had problems in Central Florida because of the flooding. I live in Orlando and have never seen the downtown area flooded like it was after Ian.”

CFD Flooring, Debary, Fla., was still getting in touch with some accounts at press time. “The further we went in southwest Florida, the less response [we get],” noted Michael Kelley, president of CFD Flooring. “It’ll be a long road to hoe for everybody.”

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Oct. 10/17, 2022

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