Business profile

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2001

Title and firm: Tony Gates, owner Carpet Alaska.

Services: The company retails carpeting, tile, vinyl and laminate flooring. Carpet Alaska can also arrange for installation and cleaning.

Biographical information: Gates, 26, bought Carpet Alaska on April 1.

"I used to install floors years ago," Gates said. Gates then changed careers, going into sales. He started selling janitorial supplies and paper products. After that he went to work for Competitive Edge Office Systems, a dealer for Xerox Corp.

Gates thought Xerox was a dead-end road. Its stock price dropped roughly in half the year previous to Gates leaving. So he bailed out and bought the carpet store.

"I thought, 'What the heck, I've done sales and installation,'" he said. So he combined his two former skills and bought the company.

The carpeting industry turned out to have a very steep learning curve, Gates said.

"I knew nothing about retail. It's completely different being on this side of the desk (than an installer)," he said.

The key to the carpet business is getting to know the contractors - in both new homes and remodeling - and real estate agents. That accounts for a significant amount of business, he said.

The industry shares seasons with most retailers - it's busy March through Christmas, then dies off until around tax-return time, Gates said.

Since buying Carpet Alaska, Gates said he has some newer displays and more installers on hand. Eventually he said he would like to expand into different markets throughout Southeast.

Family: He is married to Jennifer Gates. They don't have any children.

Quotable: "Sales is sales," he said. Once you develop a sales style, that stays with you no matter what's being sold, "whether it's Boeing 747s or soap," Gates said.

Employees: Gates is the only person in the shop, though he subcontracts installation and cleaning services.

Contact information: 8505 Old Dairy Road, 790-2466.



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