By the end of 1974, Advanced Schools (where Bob was currently employed) was rumored to be going bankrupt. Time for another job. I thought about looking for a job in insurance but I knew I could not pass their test. So I decided to start my own business. I went to the phone book yellow pages and read them A to Z. I always liked the letter C; it reminded me of Mom’s canary, Arnold that was eaten by my cat, Henry. What took up the most space in C was carpet. It was a no-brainer –fuzzy side up.
In our town there were five carpet dealers. I visited each one as a customer for one reason or another. I left each one with the feeling that it could have been a much better experience. So the competition was weak. That was good; who wants to compete with genius? My first thought was to work for a future competitor. I called all of them and told them my plan. I said I was willing to work twenty-four hours a week for six months, doing whatever they needed done, for nothing. The rest of the time, I had to make some money to live on. Believe it or not, no one took me up on this. I remember sitting there thinking, This is not rocket science or brain surgery, so just go for it. That’s what I did.
We are blessed to have a collection of Bob’s stories from his books, Fuzzy Side Up Volumes I and II.
Stop in and ask for a copy.
We didn’t have more than $1000 saved, so Di went to work as a bookkeeper at Downingtown Senior High School to make the $150 a month we needed for the mortgage and food. I went to Philadelphia to visit carpet distributors. They brought from the mills and sold mostly to Mom and Pop-type stores. I bought $300 worth of deck boards; they were about three feet square with a large carpet sample on the front and little swatches underneath. I called my business Chester County Floor Covering Company and had cards and flyers made up. I said goodbye to my XKE and bought a Chevy Suburban.
Now I’m ready, I thought. I have a product, a supplier, work ethic, common sense, and thousands of people who need carpet. The only things I didn’t have were a store or money for advertising. No problem. I went door to door and handed out my flyers to every house in Downingtown. I still remember how cold it was that February.
Two weeks later, someone finally called to ask about carpet. Great! Her name was Franny Eachus. I went out with samples and a tape measure. She wanted kitchen carpet. Her choice wasn’t all that difficult since I only had three samples. She asked me how much it would cost. Her kitchen was 13’ x 15’, and the carpet came 12 feet wide.
This possibility had never occurred to me. I hesitated for a second, and said, “Mrs. Eachus, now that I have your selection and the measurements of your kitchen, I will go back and figure it out and call you tomorrow. Is that okay?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile.
I think she knew I was new to this. I tried as hard as I could, but I couldn’t figure out how I could put a 12-foot wide carpet in a 13’x 15’ space. I couldn’t call a competitor, so I called a store far away. I found one in Delaware County, called Factory Rug. I called and asked if they would help me. It was a miracle; they said they would. The next morning I went down, and they showed me how to figure it out.
As it turned out, Fanny needed a 12’ x 20’ which came out to 26.67 square yards. I didn’t quite understand how they did it, but I did understand that the carpet was going to cost me $4.00 a square yard.
I went back to Fanny that afternoon, and she agreed to purchase the carpet. I said, “I’ll order your carpet today and call you tomorrow to let you know when it will be in.” I called my distributor Seymour Waldman and ordered her carpet. Since I was new, I didn’t have any credit established with them, and was told that they would accept a certified check. The next day, certified check in hand, I went to Philadelphia and picked up the rug. I called Fanny and told her that her rug was in.
“Great,!” she said. “When will you install it?”
Problem. I can’t install carpet. After a short silence, I told her I would call her back with a date. I called Nancy at Factory Rug and explained to them that I needed someone to install the carpet.
“When would you like it installed?” she asked.
“As soon as possible,” I told her.
Great. I told her how many yards were to be installed. She told me it would cost $4.00 per square yard and $.25 per yard to glue down.
“How much metal reducer will you need?” she asked. I didn’t know. “We’ll bring 12 feet at fifty cents a foot,” she said.
Glad it wasn’t a big Job. It was a lesson well learned. I guess sometimes stupidity is bliss. Thank you, Fanny, wherever you are.