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Monday, Jul 22, 2024
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Coles Rolls Out Red Carpet For Customers for 60 Years

Family-owned Coles Fine Flooring, also known as Coles Carpets, is turning 60.

The icing on this anniversary cake: a growing interest in home improvement that has netted this homegrown company , averaging $20-million-a-year in sales , its best years ever.

Company President George Coles carries the torch lit by his father, Hubert Coles, in 1947.

“I personally have witnessed three recessions and I think you simply have to learn from those experiences not to overextend, to run and manage your business prudently, and to hire and retain good people,” said George on the company’s longevity.

The last three years have been the most successful in the company’s long history, George said.

On average, the company grew by 15 percent year-over-year in 2005 and 2006. In 2004, the rate was slightly less but still one of the company’s best years ever, George said.

Another second-generation Coles heir is Vice President Steve Coles.

“We built this company on the basic philosophy of doing business in an honest way,” Steve said. “(My father) was a great guy. He had very high standards.”

Among those standards is a one-year guarantee on all floors installed by Coles.

Unlike George, 61, who was first to join the family business in 1973 after dropping out of law school, Steve, 51, said he knew early on he wanted to be part of it.

“My father was pretty smart,” Steve said. “He never asked if anyone wanted to come in (to the business) because he wanted it to be our decision so that if we did come to him, he would know it was what we really wanted and we’d have the same passion for it that would make it and us successful.”

George and Steve have six other siblings; two sisters, Chris and Jan, are involved in running Coles’ seven showrooms.

The showrooms are scattered across the county and include a 40,000-square-foot flagship store on West Morena Boulevard and a 25,000-square-foot store in San Marcos.

There are also stores ranging in size from 3,000 to 7,500 square feet in El Cajon, Solana Beach and in military exchange stores, from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in downtown San Diego.

The Coles company employs more than 130 people, from designers to installers, customer service representatives to delivery drivers. That includes a manager’s staff of seven, who average 20 years’ tenure.

Until his death, last April, founder Hubert continued to make frequent trips to the office, George said.


A Father’s Wisdom

Among the advice Hubert left to his sons and daughters was to own shop locations, promote thyself frequently and honestly is always the best policy.

“One thing that our dad taught us is if you find a good location own it, and we do own our better locations,” George said, referring to West Morena Boulevard, San Marcos and Solana Beach, which is in the popular Cedros Design District.

A recent internal company survey found that 50 percent of Coles customers, who are primarily home remodelers but also include interior designers and commercial contractors, are repeat business or referrals. Still, the retailer doesn’t dare rest on its laurels.

Coles spends $1.5 million a year on advertising that includes TV and radio spots, outdoor billboards and local print publications. The company also spends a good amount of time promoting itself through civic involvement as sponsors of the San Diego County Animal Shelter.

George also sits on the local board of the Better Business Bureau and co-chairs San Diego County Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 1994.

To increase appeal at its largest store, Coles has spent $250,000 renovating the Morena site, a project just completed, George said. He said plans to start a $150,000 renovation at the San Marcos site are in the works.

To follow his father’s advice about honesty, Coles staffs a full-time customer service department, as well as offers guarantees on the work and products.

“We have three full-time people in our customer service department, which, let’s face it, is our complaint department,” George said.


A New Generation

When George and Steve joined their father in the mid-1970s, Coles consisted of a handful of employees and had just two stores, one in La Jolla and at Morena. According to George, his father, who originally called the store Coles of La Jolla, started out selling fine furniture rather than just flooring and carpets. Opening a site outside of La Jolla and renaming the company Coles Carpets helped reach a wider audience but it was nothing like it is today.

“With his experience and groundedness and my youthful energy, we got it going again,” said George, who has once again morphed the company name to Coles Fine Flooring to keep up with the times.

Technology has played a role in Coles’ 21st century success. An interconnected scheduling program that allows in-home estimators and installers to easily schedule next-day deliveries gives Coles a more competitive edge, George said.

No third-generation Coles family members participate in the business today. But with 25-plus grandchildren, from the cradle to beyond college years, a third generation of Coles Fine Flooring operators seems likely.

“We’re looking at the next generation,” Steve said. “We’ll have them ready when the time comes. I’m sure of it.”

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