Best Practices: Atlantic Flooring OBX – Nov 2023

By Jessica Chevalier

Amanda and Josh Deal acquired Atlantic Flooring OBX in January 2020. The journey began when Amanda took a job at the business in 2014 as an employee, after spending a career in hospitality and retail. Her expertise in customer service paired with her husband’s background in building supply sales provided them a unique base from which to build their flooring business, and Atlantic Flooring OBX has experienced growth each year under their ownership.

Manteo is a community on Roanoke Island, an 18-square-mile island off the coast of North Carolina, between Roanoke Sound to the east and Croatan Sound to the west. Beyond Roanoke Sound are the Outer Bank barrier islands.

Josh Deal grew up in the unique island community of Manteo and always hoped to return to raise his children. However, the Deals’ early career paths didn’t cooperate. The couple spent some time in Lakeland, Florida, Amanda’s hometown, before moving to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Josh worked as a truss designer with Stock Building Supply. The 2008 downturn brought job cuts at Stock and sent the Deals back to Lakeland.

On a whim one day, Amanda applied to a job in Manteo through Monster. Within two hours, she received a call for an interview and was hired for a position in management at J. Crew in Nags Head. The family packed up once again and headed back to North Carolina, where Josh accepted a job with Kellogg Supply Co., a building material provider, in sales.

A few years into her tenure with J. Crew, however, Amanda grew weary of the retail lifestyle. She had young children-son Maddox and daughter Harper-and felt like she was missing their childhoods. In late 2014, she took a job as an interior design consultant with Atlantic Flooring, which was then owned by family friends.

“It was worth the pay cut to come here, and it was a good fit for me,” recalls Amanda. “I’d always loved interiors. My mom has been an interior designer for 30 years. And the hospitality skills of retail and restaurant retail transfer over. It was not a hard transition.”

A couple of years later, the owners approached Amanda and Josh about buying the business. At the time, Josh had just accepted a position with a truss company that would have moved the family to Dunn, North Carolina. Amanda and Josh considered their options and decided that acquiring Atlantic Flooring was in their best interests.

Josh came on to run the business operations, with Amanda focusing on design and customer service.

Atlantic Flooring serves North Carolina Outer Banks, which largely consists of the 100 miles between Corolla and Hatteras. Okracoke, the southernmost island of the Outer Banks, is accessible only by ferry, which equates to a logistical nightmare that the Deals avoid if they can. They will travel to Okracoke for significant jobs.

Much of Atlantic Flooring’s work is on second and rental homes, which means that the offseason for travel is the on-season for Atlantic Flooring. That season has traditionally been January to June, though the Deals have seen that span narrow with the increase in remote work. Regardless, Amanda characterizes the winter season as “insanity” work wise. During the vacation season, builder and renovation work for year-round residents sustains Atlantic Flooring.

Product-wise, Atlantic’s customers require a broad offering. Explains Amanda, “There are customers who don’t want to invest a lot in a rental, but many are now realizing that if they go with higher-quality product, they aren’t replacing them as often. Also, many homes here are multimillion properties on the ocean, so there has to be a standard of quality.” She adds that there is no tract building in the Outer Banks; all homes are custom.

With the high cost of living on the islands, many of the subcontractor installers that work with Atlantic Flooring live some miles away. “Our installers work exclusively for us and have for a long time. It’s a huge blessing,” explains Amanda. “One lives in in Buxton, another in Currituck, a tile crew comes in from Elizabeth City-they are all coming from a distance. We have tried other crews but found that they don’t meet our standards.” Amanda reports that the flooring installer shortage is a challenge across the Outer Banks, and, while her store has what it needs currently, the lack of a next generation of installers indicates that the situation may be dire in a decade or so.

Similarly, Atlantic Flooring doesn’t have much staff turnover, reports Amanda, “but if one of our current people left, it would be very difficult to replace them with someone qualified.” When Atlantic Flooring did have two employees leave recently-one to open his own irrigation/landscaping business and one for a personal reason-the Deals chose to reshuffle tasks among their remaining employees rather than hire.

Atlantic Flooring’s location had been a flooring store for decades before transitioning to “Atlantic Flooring” when the prior owners took over in the early 2000s. The storefront is located in an area that’s mixed commercial and residential.

When Josh joined the business, he found many systems in need of updating. “The processes in place were archaic,” says Amanda. “Josh came in and really worked on efficiencies. We changed software and filing systems. We switched from a measuring tape to a measuring program with lasers. And all of that has really made a huge impact on the business. That will evolve more with AI, which Josh is researching.” In addition to his back-of-house duties, Josh does all the measuring.

LVT is the largest category for Atlantic Flooring at present, with ceramic in the second position. Amanda notes that LVT is actively taking share from ceramic. The company also sells carpet-which not long ago was its best-selling category-and hardwood. Atlantic Flooring also does custom shower and backsplash jobs and notes that bathroom and kitchen remodel work is active right now.

Amanda doesn’t consider the local big boxes much of a threat. She says, “What they carry is not apples to apples with our offering. We don’t try to be all things to all people.” While there are a host of mom-and-pop operations in the area, “there is really enough work to go around, so there is no bad blood.”

Atlantic Flooring focuses its outreach efforts on community endeavors, such as supporting school events and participating in the Alice Kelly Fishing Tournament, a woman-only event that raises money for breast cancer research.

Word of mouth carries a lot of weight in communities where owners of second homes or rental properties may not have as much personal experience with local retailers, and Amanda reports that several customers have mentioned receiving recommendations through neighborhood or community Facebook groups.

Amanda notes that working with, in many cases, remote owners gave the Atlantic Flooring team a leg up amid the pandemic. “Because we have so many clients who don’t live here full time, we were used to doing a lot over phone and email, so we were able to make a seamless transition. We really try to education clients on products they are purchasing and why one thing is a better application than another. The more product knowledge they have, the more comfortable they feel about the investment.”

Scheduling is a challenge that Amanda and her team butt up against every day, as so many factors-material arrival times, contractor schedules, job site challenges-can impact timelines. “Managing people is always the hardest thing,” says Amanda.

Looking ahead, Amanda has a realistic view of how a changing economic landscape may challenge her business in ways she hasn’t yet experienced, but she’s optimistic, “We have been able to grow year after year since we took over, but with the way things are going economically, that may change a little. If that happens, we’ll just continue to focus on making each customer experience the best it can be.”

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE)