One History of the Carpet Barn
When I was 10, my parents went away together for a weekend in New Hampshire. We lived in southeastern Massachusetts at the time. My mother had had a baby girl in June and it was now Labor Day weekend. Things in Mass. in 1974 weren’t great. There was an energy crisis going on, inflation, Nixon had just disillusioned the country, it was all chaos. Businesses were going bankrupt daily, especially contractors who had had their entire businesses on credit waiting for the newly built homes to sell… which didn’t. So people like my dad (flooring store) who depended upon contractors selling those houses got lost in the crunch. My dad, Tom Kingston, had had a business in Marshfield, Ma. called T.H. Kingston Flooring Inc. and for a number of years it flourished. Then came the economic problems previously mentioned, and he decided to move his family out of the “rat race” to northern NH where he had fond memories of being a child visiting his father’s relatives in “God’s Country.”
Tom grew up in Watertown, MA (outside Boston) because his mother wasn’t about to leave civilization for the wildlands that her husband was from (Island Pond, VT / No. Stratford, NH). But from time to time, she allowed her children to visit that homeland with her husband on vacation. In those days, it took many hours to travel from Boston to No. Stratford by car.
Tom’s dad, my grandfather… Harry…was a meticulous tradesman. He ran a store for many years right on Main Street in Watertown, MA called “Kingston and Son Flooring”. He sold and installed linoleum products, mainly Armstrong, and ceramic tile. This is the store that my dad Tom grew up in being the “and Son” part of the business. Tom started going on installations with Harry when he was very young. When he grew into his teen years, Harry let Tom have a corner of the store to sell model trains and airplanes…he enjoyed that, but eventually got back into flooring like his dad, but with carpeting this time and hardwood floors. This he did for many years until eventually he met my mother and they moved to Marshfield, MA where he opened his own store.
Tom and Nancy’s’ weekend away in NH turned into a life changing event. When they got back, they had a house all picked out and started trying to talk it up to their 5 kids. I was devastated to leave my friends and the only world I thought I would ever want or need. However, leave I did.
For the first year or so, my Dad worked as an installer at other flooring stores in the area. When I was 12, he began selling a few rolls of carpet out of our barn, which was huge and apparently “made for this” according to him. But as soon as he opened the business, he then had to enlarge it, and fill in our backyard with a huge warehouse. This required the cutting down of a beautiful Weeping Willow tree in the middle of our backyard, which will always be worth mentioning by me, to his great annoyance. Eventually, our woodshed became the wallpaper room, our back deck became another part of the store, and by the time I went to college in Boston, there was another addition filling it all in and connecting it as one large store. By the time I graduated college, he had tried having branch stores in several towns and was now trying one in North Conway at the Mall. So, returning from college at Northeastern University my first job was managing that store... The Carpet and Furniture Barn. It was good, except for the flooring part! The younger me just wasn’t into it. So, I went back to Mass. to pursue other things. The Carpet Barn flourished even as it shed it’s other branches and consolidated back into just one store in Lancaster, and to just flooring instead of furniture and waterbeds.
When I was 33, my dad started calling me at my job in Mass. where I was very happily doing computer work for a foodservice trucking company. It was then 1997, and he asked me to come back and help him out with the computer and bookkeeping which was taking over his life. I really wasn’t interested, as I pondered the misery of rolling remnants in years past. But he kept asking, and mentioned how affordable it would be for me to buy my own house up here, as it was impossible in Mass. for me as a single person. So, I eventually caved and moved home.
Wow, what an adjustment! Small town life is a culture shock; you have no idea, unless you have actually experienced it! I’d forgotten how it is to live in a town where everyone knows you, and knows your business! So, now I was the bookkeeper. I was ok with that as I wasn’t really comfortable with customers. There is a lot to know about flooring, and I was perfectly aware of how much I didn’t know. And of course, as soon as I was able to take over the books and office stuff, Tom started renovating apartment buildings and freeing himself from the store’s daily grind. Soon he needed my mother’s help with his projects and she was often away. She kept on top of the wallpaper room though, her special place, and gradually let the rest of everything be handled by employees . By the time 2003 came around, Tom and Nancy were almost never at the store, or at least not under a schedule. They were in their 60’s, hot on other projects, and done with being tied down to the store. I still had no interest whatsoever in taking over the business at that time. I’d grown up watching what they had to go through…the ups and downs of business ownership, the craziness, and I wanted no part of it.
Then I went to a seminar held by one of our vendors Mohawk University, given by a man named Sam Allman. It was a three day seminar held in Dalton, GA at the home of the carpet mills. The name of the seminar was The Systematic Business. It blew me away. I realized that I could in fact take over my parents business, and yet, make it mine. I didn’t have to do it their way…it could be organized. It could be fun, and yet not crazy. I left that seminar realizing that my life was about to change. I realized that I was now a third generation flooring store owner.
When I went home and told my parents what I had learned, what I wanted to do, my mother tried to talk me out of it! She said it was too hard…find something more secure, something that wouldn’t give me a bad nights sleep! My dad on the other hand, was excited at finally being able to sell it! And since I didn’t have a penny to my name other than my house, he knew he’d have to do the financing but it would be on his terms. Obviously, beggars can’t be choosers! So, he got to sell it at a decent price, and I got an established business. We went to the lawyers and made it legal as of Jan 1, 2004.
A few months later, at the strong urging of the lawyers and accountants, I turned the business into an LLC.
I’ve learned that owning a business is all about the process. You start with just trying to keep up with the things that yell the loudest. Managing the people is the hardest part. They don’t have ESP. The advertising was something that drove me crazy…it was expensive, and necessary, but so boring. Quickly I decided that that was one thing that I could change…push the envelope…and now we are known for our fun and crazy ads!
When I think about the history of the store...I think about the people, from my grandparents, to the myriad of employees who all helped to shape the store, my brothers and sisters, the installers, and mostly my parents. I also think of the history as the changes that have taken place in the buildings. I think of the history as some of the things that we have sold over the years, that we no longer do like waterbeds, furniture, mattresses, wood stoves, and paint. I think of the changes in the business climate and how it is just different today.
I wonder what the future will hold and what directions that The Carpet Barn will go in next? There are so many possibilities! It will definitely be about the people who work here, our neighbors, installers, and most importantly our customers who count on The Carpet Barn continuing to be a part of our community!