Only in the Independent retail channel could you hear a story about a local paint store that managed to turn itself into a full-blown flooring and appliance design studio in just over a decade. That may sound like a deliciously cooked up metaphor, but it’s exactly the type of business path that Urbandale, Iowa-based Royal Flooring has been on since the company opened in 2005.
Located a stone’s throw away from Des Moines, Royal Flooring was established by three owners — Nick Fiala, Johnnie Kennell and Scott Sullivan — who all grew up together and come from professional backgrounds and industries.
“We all went to college for completely different lines of work,” Kennell says. “We just stumbled into this thanks to a relative who mentioned that they wanted to start a paint store.”
Luckily for the trio, they did start small, opening a single paint store. Just as they were getting their bearings as a business, the U.S. economy was rocked by the Great Recession that got underway in late 2007.
“That was a little scary to go through,” Kennell says. “It was nice for us, because we were so small the first couple years. We just grew with it and grew through it. We didn’t have a whole lot of overhead at the time, and honestly it was a lot of luck.”
Other businesses in the Des Moines area, obviously, were not so lucky.
Granted, while Royal Flooring would’ve been on a growth path regardless, Kennell believes their success as a business may have been helped a little bit by the recession. The owners were already asking their customers questions about what types of things they were painting or repainting. Most often they would hear “flooring,” which lead Kennell and the other owners to explore expansion into the flooring business.
“We got a hold of some flooring reps, and just started adding some displays in our paint store,” he says. “Then, a few months later we said, ‘Well, let’s just start selling flooring.’ That’s how it began. Then, it just snowballed.”
A New Castle
Today, Royal Flooring is getting set to move into a brand-new 25,000-square-foot facility that will prominently display their offerings in the flooring, furniture and newly added appliance categories. Throughout the showroom, customers will see a combination of cabinets and countertops, vignettes that display different finishings alongside the latest appliances, and more.
“Right now, we have a 14,000-square-foot showroom with a warehouse connected to it. We opened this in February 2015, and right out of the gate we ran out of room,” Kennell explains. “We underbuilt and needed more room for salespeople and just needed more showroom. So, a few years ago, we had a plan drawn up to add onto our building. Then, in the process of that, we found some other ground and just decided to build a bigger showroom where we could fit.”
Aside from the added breathing room, the new space incorporates something that is incredibly unique — a full-blown restaurant.
“We bought into a franchise restaurant called The Protein House. So, it’ll be connected to the flooring store, and you’ll be able to enter it within the flooring store, if need be,” Kennell says. “I joke with everybody, it’s so we can keep our employees here, and they don’t have to leave.”
More than just a way to keep employees close on their lunch breaks, the restaurant will provide a rather distinguished area where Royal Flooring can host (and self-cater) events at the store.
“The nice thing about being in the cabinet industry and the appliance industry is that all of our boutiques are set up and they’re live. We can cook out of them, we do demonstrations, cooking shows and cooking classes. But having the restaurant there, we’ll be able to have even bigger events,” Kennell says. “We try to have an event once a month, and it might not have anything to do with what we sell — like a wine night or a ladies’ night — and having that restaurant attached to us, for catering purposes, just makes it that much more convenient.”
Royal Flooring has grown in other ways, beyond their new showroom and restaurant. The company recently has started hiring in-house designers that are specialized in kitchen and bath designs. Often, it’s design houses that will approach a retailer like Royal Flooring for their product, which will then be used in a project that the designer is working on. In hiring their own design team, Kennell and his co-owners keep that business for themselves and become a one-stop-shop for their clients.
Kennell calls that decision “one of the best things we’ve done in the past few years.”
“Having dedicated designers, it just makes the customer feel that much more comfortable, and it just brings a lot to the table,” he says. “When they can bounce around from flooring to appliances to cabinets and just walk hand-in-hand with the customer, it’s a little more professional and credible.”
Much like how Royal Flooring expanded into new product categories, the desire to add in-house designers was developed simply by keeping their fingers on the pulse of their customers’ demands.
“People were asking if we had in-house designers and we would just say, ‘Oh, yeah, we do,’ and we’d just go over and grab a cabinet designer,” Kennell explains. “It just worked out to where, yeah, we thought that would be a great addition to just have full-time designers, really so I could stop bothering the cabinet gals.”
Whatever Royal Flooring is doing, it’s working. With their new showroom/restaurant opening and serving as their only location, they still manage to attract clients from several hours away. Sure, they have a web presence and offer online consultations. But Kennell and his co-owners know that the in-person experience rules the day when it comes to the products they carry. And when customers walk through the doors at Royal Flooring, they have the comfort of knowing they won’t have to go anywhere else.