A Family Tradition
Hannon Floor Covering Corp. serves New Jersey for 90+ years
When Montclair State University needed to replace the flooring in two five-story residence halls, Hannon Floor Covering Corp. knew time was a key factor in tackling the project. The company had from the time students left for the summer until they returned in mid-August to finish the work.
Meeting deadlines isn’t a problem for the more than 90-year-old, family-owned company.
“The Montclair State floor renovation entailed a lot of manpower and a lot of moving parts—between working around the painters, moving furniture and coordinating with any number of other tradesmen there at the same time,” says Jim Hannon, Hannon Floor Covering Secretary. “We are usually the last ones in, so by the time it gets to us, there may be challenges because we have a tight deadline.”
Working on a summer timeline for higher education institutions, K-12 schools and businesses is routine for Hannon. “We have also done several projects for Kean University in Union, as well as for the New Jersey Transit main building in Newark,” Jim says.
“The majority of work we do in schools starts in mid-May and has to wrap up by the end of August. It’s the same with Kean—usually the work we do there is when school is closed or overnight, on weekends or during holidays,” he says. “The same things apply for projects like the New Jersey Transit, which is in operation all day. It’s all about logistics. We will go in at night and finish up the job overnight because we know employees and customers are coming back to work the next day, and we can’t leave it in disarray.”
The Hannon Floor Covering team performs flooring sales and installation. “We’re not designers, but we can sit down and recommend products,” Jim says. “We will meet with project managers and suggest the floor options we think they should use and, ultimately, if the end-user in insistent on using a product we don’t think will work, we will just walk away from the deal.”
How It Started
Jim explains that the Hannon Floor Covering staff is driven to meet customers’ needs, and it has been that way since the company was started in 1928 by his grandfather, William Hannon, and William’s brother, Edward. The company has been family owned and operated continuously since its inception.
The Hannon brothers originally opened Hannon’s Broadloom Carpet in Newark, New Jersey, and over the years, they added branch locations in East Hanover and Green Brook, before moving the entire operation to Union.
Jim’s father, James Hannon Sr., and James’ brothers, Robert, Frank, William and Donald, were the second generation to run the company. They retired in 2000 and the business was taken over by Jim, Frank Hannon, Jr. and Robert Hannon. The family legacy continues with the next generation of family, including Justin and Donnie Hannon and Kevin Pupa.
The generations have passed down expertise and advice on how to run the business and serve clients, Jim says.
“My grandfather started the business in 1928. His five sons came into it when they graduated from high school or came back from the war, and the five of them brought the business up, and they all retired as a whole in 2000,” Jim recalls. “While they were still around, we asked them for advice. They instilled in us a work ethic, as well as the order in which to do things.”
Jim remembers that, while most of his classmates as teenagers were heading for the beach, he went to work with his dad. “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, since I was 15,” Jim says. “I don’t profess to know everything, but if I wouldn’t put a product in my own house or business, I won’t sell it just to sell it.”
Jim says Hannon is one of the largest commercial residential floor covering dealers in the state. “We reached that by treating every customer like a family member” he says.
Wisdom from Predecessors
Over the years, Jim says he’s absorbed wisdom from his predecessors that he now shares with the next generation of leadership at Hannon. One of the biggest lessons he learned from one of his uncles is to avoid verbal work orders; write things down. “That way you don’t forget, especially when you’re busy,” Jim says.
“It can be difficult to remember the details, so make your notes. That also helps in dealing with end-users because things change, products are discontinued,” Jim says.
Operating a family business can be tricky, but the company leaders made the conscious decision to leave any work problems or disputes at the office when they went home at night. “Those business problems stay inside the locked doors. They were all brothers. Our generation is all cousins and the family remains close-knit. You would think it would be harder with people from three different households, growing up three different ways,” he says.
The Up and Down Roller Coaster
The flooring industry is like a big roller coaster, Jim says. It goes up and down depending upon the economy. After the recession in 2008, the industry was at the bottom of the cycle.
“New flooring is not a necessity. Years ago, when I worked at the East Hanover location, we would get people who were selling their homes and their Realtors would encourage them to replace the carpet. I don’t recommend that because new owners often rip it up and replace it anyway with their own preference. I often tell them to buy a $35 gallon of paint or replace the 100-watt light bulbs with 50 watts and no one can see it,” he quips. Then, our team can replace it for the new residents, Jim adds.
Pointing Customers in a Smart Direction
Choosing new flooring can be a challenge whether it’s for a commercial or residential project. Sometimes that selection process can take a few months, he says. “We aren’t high pressure; we don’t believe in operating that way. We ask customers the right questions to point them in the right direction,” he adds.
He encourages his team to not be afraid to tell a customer, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’ll find out for you.”
“When I started, we had a lot of knowledge here between my father and four uncles. We know a lot, but we don’t profess to know it all. Now, the next generation comes to us. They’re on the road a lot the time,” he says.
“Most of our installers have worked for us an average of 10 to 15 years. We are very loyal to them and they are to us,” Jim explains. “Keeping people is important; it is a trust business because you have these people working in your house or business, sometimes at night, and we can’t have someone that we don’t trust.”
Hannon Floor Covering uses employees from the Local 251 Carpenters Union. “They go through a five-year apprenticeship and journeyman training. There are classes they attend because a lot of manufacturers want certified and qualified people to install their products, so we send them to those classes,” he says.
The team is usually made up of about 15 workers year-round, but that number grows in the summer to 25 or 30 people with the school projects. Much of the team’s training is provided in-house by the newest generation of Hannons or by manufacturers’ representatives, Jim says. “We stay up to date on newest products and installation methods. We even train with videos on YouTube to see how something is actually being done,” he adds.
“If you treat your employees with respect and do the right thing by them, they’ll do the right thing for you. You don’t have to yell at them; it’s not the end of the world if a floor isn’t done tomorrow. Everyone here works together and the ship sails smoothly,” Jim says.
Jim says Hannon’s professional installation teams are qualified to install carpet, vinyl composition tile, sheet vinyl, solid vinyls, rubber floors and stair treads, ceramic tile and wood flooring. He says the flooring type in highest demand is waterproof and luxury vinyl. Business breaks down to about 80% commercial projects and 20% residential.
Hannon Floor Covering is a charter member of the Floor Covering Institute of New Jersey (FCINJ) and associated with the Building Contractors Association of New Jersey. The company is also classified as a Small Business Enterprise in the state of New Jersey. On top of that, the company has been qualified to install carpeting and window treatments. “We have been a state contract vendor for more than 25 years,” explains Jim. “This allows us to bid for jobs with state agencies, counties, municipalities, school districts, volunteer fire departments, first aid squads, independent institutions of higher learning, county colleges and state colleges,” he explains.
Close to Home
The Hannon family believes in giving back to the community. As a companywide effort, Hannon Floor Covering supports the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, packaging food before the major holidays, he says. The company even has a foundation that it funds for charitable giving. “That’s really a big part of the family theme; sticking together and helping others,” he says.
The company is also a big supporter of the local fire and police departments, as well as youth sports organizations. “There are various ways that we give back. I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for 30 years, and my son is a career firefighter. Many in our family are police officers,” Jim says.
“Staying involved in your community also helps business. Much of our efforts result in advertising with the organizations we support. And, it helps with word-of-mouth business referrals; if I do right by you, you’re going to tell your neighbor, and it goes on and on. We have had customers whose parents bought their flooring from my father who also sold to their grandpas,” Jim says. “We like doing business like that.”