Bobbie Joe’s Rug Works
Three generations strong
(From left to right) Maureen Barnett, Alana Hill and Julia Spalla.
By Theresa Poalucci
There are certain advantages to operating a family business. First and foremost
there is solidarity. That’s not to say that family members might not disagree,
but when it comes to the business they usually get things done.
Then there is trust, creating an environment where business matters and where issues can be discussed openly and freely.
Control is a factor as well, not to mention speed. In a family business decisions can often be made quickly as the owners are on site and they are the captains of their own fate.
Successive generations also play a role. A smart family business maintains its edge naturally by bringing up the kids in the business. While the founding generation, and the managing generation have the experience, the next-gen can bring ingenuity, fresh ideas, and a perceptive about the younger market that management would not have.
Finally, there is nature versus nurture. Business owners are born to be entrepreneurial risk-takers, so it is likely their kids will be to. The offspring see first hand what it takes to win at business giving them an edge the minute they begin to work.
All of these advantages are contributing factors in the success of Bobbie Joe’s Rug Works. With two stores, the family’s no-nonsense edict has kept them in operation through good economic times and bad.
I recently visited the current family members in charge at their store on East 22nd. I knew I would be meeting one of the founders, her daughter and her granddaughter.
An attractive blonde woman met me in the showroom and I made the mistake of assuming I was meeting the granddaughter.
“Nice to meet you Alana,” I said.
She laughed. “No, I am Alana’s mom, Julia.”
I told her she looked great and she told me “Wait until you meet Grandma.”
She was right. Maureen Barnett, the matriarch of the group was stunning in her appearance. Her husband and she had started the carpet business in the late 70s in a building that was once a gas station on Fort Lowell. Her husband Bobbie Joe had worked in the carpet industry for many years prior to becoming his own boss. Along with his son-in-law and wife he built his own business where customers bought carpet that was in stock.
Today the model is much the same, as Bobbie Joe’s Rug Works keep the most popular brands and colors in their warehouse/showroom so customers get the satisfaction of getting their carpet when they purchase it. However these days the company also helps them arrange for installation if they need it. They also have a large display of tiles, laminates, and wood flooring as well that can be ordered. And if you can’t make it to the showroom, they will come to your home with samples and assist with choosing just the right flooring for your needs.
“My husband had a heart attack on Mt Lemmon at the age of 36,” explained Maureen. “He passed away in 1998, leaving myself, my daughter and her husband to help me continue with the business.”
Daughter Alana joined the team in July 2000, making the management team three generations, all female and all blondes.
“I really enjoy coming to work everyday,” enthused Alana. As a mother of three she was able to bring her children to work when they were infants.
“It was hard to get any work done when the babies were here,” said Julia, explaining that loving on her grand babies was a huge temptation.
Now days the office is baby free, and everyone is very busy on building the business, along with their employees, many of whom have been with them for 20 years.
“We have such a great team,” said Julia. “They all feel like family to us.”
I asked them if they ever disagree. And they agreed that they always collectively come to the same decision even it their approaches may be different.
“I know who the real bosses are!” smiled Alana.
“We are really proud of Alana,” said Julia. “She has really become good at all her duties.”
“She has a great knack for customer service as well,” chimed in Maureen, who explained that her granddaughter had to start at the bottom and work her way up in the business.
I asked the ladies what is trending right now in flooring.
“Luxury vinyl for sure,” said Alana. She went on to explain that because of improved technology vinyls have a whole new look.
They also said tile was big, and they meant that literally. Tile sizes like 12-by-24 inches are popular, along with the tiles shaped like planks that look like hardwood.
As for carpet, they explained that all the big mills now deliver twice a week to their locations. Trends include cut-and-loop, in which the pile is partly cut and partly looped to create a sculpted look or pattern.
All Bobbie Joes sales staff provides free in-home consultations, showing samples that fit a home’s decor. However customers can get a real feel for their choice of carpeting when they visit the store and see the tall remnants lined up against the walls. The family had the showroom warehouse combination building specially built to accommodate their needs and the needs of their customers. No more gas stations turned into carpet showrooms.
The family has grown their business, sticking together through the grief of losing their founder, husband, father and grandfather Bobbie Joe — to the joyous addition of Alana’s three children. Two customized stores later, they are out of the gas stations and on to serving their customers with the same warmth and concern, and integrity they treat each other — like family.
“We have maintained our integrity for over 40 years,” said Maureen, who these days is semi-retired, only working two days a week. “We offer the best deals on flooring, better than the big box stores and we have more variety. If you are good to people they will be good to you.”
“We are all very strong independent women,” said Alana. “We all share the challenges of family and work and it has made us closer.”