Show Up and Show Off
Neighborhood Floors & More, LLC covers the market with flooring alternatives
If 50 percent of life is just showing up, as the saying goes, Neighborhood Floors & More, LLC (Neighborhood Floors) cranks it up to 110 percent, says Co-Owner Brian Mallams.
A prime example: a Mariner Finance branch under construction in Highland, Indiana. “We didn’t know the general contractor, Carney Construction, but we were called in after another flooring vendor didn’t show up,” Brian says.
“We were there the next day and completed the job within 24 hours. The day after that, Carney gave us three new jobs. We’ve now done 10 or 12 projects for them in the past year. In a similar way, we have a significant relationship with HGR Group Inc., a large contractor based in South Bend. We’ve done a number of multifamily complexes for them, both renovations and new builds.”
“That’s how we work,” adds Co-Owner Byron Chandler. “We’re given an opportunity, we show up, we do top-quality work on time at a fair cost, and we build solid relationships that lead to repeat business. The majority of our projects are repeat and referral business.”
Established in 2014, Portage, Indiana-based Neighborhood Floors provides flooring installations, including hardwoods, laminates, luxury vinyl, carpeting, stone and ceramic from their showroom on Highway 6. But they work with all customers on site for estimates and planning, helping them design their new floors. The company works on projects as distant as the Chicago suburbs to the west and South Bend to the east—as well as in other states.
“We’ve been called in for jobs as far away as Texas and Florida,” Byron notes. “That reflects the relationships factor with clients like Carney, who know us and trust us.
“We do renovations and new constructs for homes, banks, restaurants, office buildings, gymnasiums, dormitories, whatever is needed. We do installations ranging from direct-to-homeowner floor replacements to large installations in new office and apartment buildings.”
A somewhat singular recent project: a mud run training facility in Minnesota for people who take part in competitions that involve challenging (and muddy) obstacle courses. The work involved lots of rubber flooring, some artificial turf areas and vinyl planking, mud not included.
Friendship, Experience and Performance
As a business built on relationships, Neighborhood Floors had a head start; Brian and Byron have been friends for nearly 30 years. Before they joined to start the company, they both had extensive, and complementary, experience in the industry. Brian worked primarily in selling flooring, Byron in installing it.
“We had a strong desire to operate our own business, and we saw a promising market in the urbanized region of northwest Indiana,” Byron says. “We wanted to expand our professional range and skill set, and we liked working with customers in all phases of installations.” As a result, at Neighborhood Floors they both now do sales, estimating and installation oversight for their company’s projects.
If the two have areas of specialization, Byron generally deals with “retail” projects (direct-to-homeowners or to contractors building new homes). Brian handles multifamily construction and commercial projects like restaurants, stores, banks and the like. About 60 percent of the company’s work is renovations, 40 percent new constructs.
The company maintains a workforce of a dozen supervisors and installers, working in teams reflecting the skills and materials involved, whether vinyl planking or hardwood, carpeting or ceramics. Typically, they have three or four teams actively engaged in installations on any day.
“We have an outstanding group of employees, some of whom have been with us since we opened seven years ago,” Byron says. “Our high rate of repeat customers reflects their quality as professionals.”
As a small subcontractor, Neigh-borhood Floors’ relationship factor extends both to the general contractors who hire the company and the suppliers who provide it with materials. “One thing that sets us apart is our relationship with our vendors,” Byron notes. “We try to work with a few reliable vendors, like Shaw Floors, a major manufacturer of flooring materials, who we can count on for reliable service and reasonable prices. By sticking to a few quality vendors, we can price well and pass the savings on to our customers.”
A Matter of Options
Working with retail clients generally is a question of measuring spaces, estimating materials and labor costs and planning the installations. That includes determining the best flooring materials for each space.
“For home renovations, luxury vinyl planking is a popular alternative to hardwood,” Brian says. “It reproduces the wood-grain effect, is manufactured in many widths and designs, is easy to maintain and it costs considerably less. It’s much better against water than most hardwoods.
“Hardwood can be waterproofed, but for regular use, vinyl planking will hold up better.” But, he adds, “Hardwood has one significant advantage. Wood can be refinished three or four times. If it gets dinged up you can sand it down and refinish it and make it look pretty again.”
Businesses with heavy foot traffic, like restaurants, tend to go for vinyl planking and tile, Brian says. “The advantage of vinyl planking is that it’s easy to repair and replace. If a small area gets damaged, you can replace one or two planks. Even better for the customer, their own staffs can make repairs to planking. They don’t need to call us to come in. It’s quicker, easier and less costly for them.”
So, is a customers’ ability to do repairs bad for Neighborhood Floors? “Not really,” Brian says. “Restaurants remodel every seven to 10 years, so we can count on being called in for repeat business over the long haul. It’s a win-win.”
Under normal usage, luxury vinyl planking in a home installation should have a life span of 15 to 25 years, he notes. A downside is that the entire floor would likely have to be replaced at the end of that time.
Ceramic tile and stone offer many of the same advantages as vinyl planking in that they can be sealed, wear well and come in myriads of looks and sizes, he says. Their use goes beyond bathrooms, showing up in kitchens and foyers.
“A tile floor can be dramatic and beautiful—and durable at the same time,” Brian says.
Seven Years, Significant Projects
In fact, the combination of vinyl planking, carpeting and ceramic tile is the typical “go to” for floorings used in structures as diverse as apartments, offices, retail businesses and other sites.
“We’ve used all of these materials,” Brian notes. He cites examples. In Indiana: Rosewood Family Restaurant in Valparaiso; the 250-unit Eagle Crossing Apartments in Chesterton; The Hawks at River Art apartments in Goshen; the 9 on Canal apartments in downtown Indianapolis; River Rock Apartments in Mishawaka; and the JMS Building, a renovation project that converted a historic office building in South Bend into an apartment complex.
Through Carney Construction, Neighborhood Floors has also worked in Mariner Finance branches throughout Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Texas—and in a tattoo removal business in Florida and that Mud Run academy in Minnesota.
Byron notes an alternative process Neighborhood Floors also provides: “Sometimes the job doesn’t require installing an existing floor but improving a concrete surface by polishing it, which can be quite dramatic.
“This involves grinding the surface and buffing it to a shine. Some businesses keep the dark brown coloration brought to a sheen, like the Howard Park Public House restaurant we did in South Bend,” Byron says. “Some involve using a stain to apply a tint to a floor, like 10,000 square feet of surface in a church we’re scheduled to do.”
The company’s workload varies depending on the times, but generally, it has 10 to 12 projects underway at any given point. If saying that implies multiple projects going on full time, simultaneously, Brian explains that many jobs have to be done in phases, working in conjunction with the general contractors or the owners.
“For example,” he says, “we’ll all do all the vinyl planking or ceramic work at an earlier stage, then wait until late in the process to lay down the carpeting. Normally, we’re close to being the last subcontractor on a construction project, coming in for the carpeting right after the painters are finished. After us, the only things left are the finishing touches—doors, trim and plumbing and electrical fixtures.”
Phasing can also involve not the general contractor but the business itself. Byron recently dealt with the renovation of the YMCA in Portage, a facility that couldn’t just shut down while they worked. They coordinated closely with the management and the general contractor to accommodate facility schedules, and the project was done in phases, sometimes coming in at night.
“This Kind of Effort…”
“Because we put in this kind of effort, we have a reputation for being helpful, competent and reliable,” Brian says. “For a lot of contractors, we’re the guys who can help them catch up on their timelines. If they have a project that’s behind schedule, they know we’ll come in, do the job quickly and help them get back on course.”
He adds: “The quality of our work, our flooring materials, our costs, all those elements are top-notch. But our contractors also know that we’ll always go above and beyond to support them, and that’s also important to our success.”