ProSource Pros Spotlight: Tom S., Installer Member, ProSource of Lexington

Tell us about your business.

I’m a flooring contractor and the owner of Bluegrass Flooring. We work in sales, design and installation of custom stone and tile. We design and install floors, showers, backsplashes, inlays, borders and patterns, and we turn out some absolutely beautiful projects. I feel like we not only add value to people’s homes; we also add joy.

How did you get started in business?

I’ve been in the building trade for about 30 years now. I started in one of the largest architecture firms on the east coast as a director of construction administration. Then I worked for a luxury home builder for several years, on homes in the $3 to $9 million range. For years I did tile and hardwood on the side, but it took until I was 40 years old to start being a flooring subcontractor. The only regret is that I didn’t do this 30 years ago.

What trends do you see in home design and remodeling?

People are spending more time educating themselves on what they want to have done. They’re doing more research and asking for products by name. This is a good thing. People are seeing products on HGTV and educating themselves more about those products and processes.

Large format tile is also a trend in the last few years. For example, 12x24-inch tile is huge, and tile keeps getting bigger. I’m now seeing porcelain tile as large as 60x120 inches that’s made to look like marble. This is new to our market, and to the industry. It’s popular in Europe, and will gain popularity here.

Wood plank look tile also getting big. It’s a great alternative to hardwood. The challenge with these large-format planks is that the subfloor has to be flat. There is a lot of prep - the subfloor can cost as much as the tile, but has to be done right for the tile to install and work right.

Glass has also become quite popular, and the cost of glass has dramatically dropped.

Why do homeowners choose you? What sets your business apart?

We don’t have exclusive rights to anything in this town. The only way we can separate ourselves is by what we do with it. It’s in how we use our materials, and the respect we have for our clients’ homes.

I’m also a big believer in crystal clear communication. I don’t want surprises, and I don’t want my customers to have them. At the end of the day, I’m installing a product that’s going to last a lifetime in someone’s home. I want them to understand and feel comfortable about what we’re doing.

What brings you the most satisfaction in your work?

I have a passion for this industry, and for what I do.

When the homeowner is happy, it really makes me feel good about what we do. It’s what drives me. My guys are craftsmen. When we get reviews and clients mention their installer by name, it makes them beam with pride.

It’s always nice when you get to the end and the homeowner says that they love it.

What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?

Keeping up with changes in the industry is important. Education is big for me. My guys and I spent a lot of time going to courses so we learn how manufacturers want their materials installed.

Manufacturers offer training for free – they’re doing this to improve the industry. There is a focus on qualified labor. I encourage other contractors to get educated. I don’t look at other tile installers as competitors; they are colleagues. I want them to hold themselves to the same standards we do when it comes to how they handle the materials. This is what builds consumer confidence.

Competing against unqualified labor is also a big challenge, because today there is a do-it-yourself element in this industry. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re installing a time bomb.

In the last 25 years, industry estimates are that 75% of tile showers are installed incorrectly. These days anyone can go to a store, buy some tile and a wet saw, and label themselves as a contractor. It can be damaging for homeowners. A lot of these guys don’t follow even minimum industry standards for installations. That voids the manufacturer’s warranty if there’s a failure.

If consumers want to try something themselves, I don’t mind trying to educate them. But when some of these guys call themselves tile contractors, it’s not good for the industry or homeowners.

What’s the most valuable benefit of being a ProSource Wholesale Member?

Where do I start? I’ve been with ProSource Wholesale for about 10 years now. They have a marvelous showroom with virtually every type of flooring imaginable, at costs ranging from top to bottom. All of their products are first-run quality and material. There are no seconds at ProSource. I don’t know of another showroom in town that offers as much.

ProSource gives me the ability to actually have my own showroom. I have a member key, so I can bring my clients to select materials at hours that are convenient for them. This allows me to realize more profit, because I don’t have to maintain a showroom.

I am very fortunate to work with ProSource Wholesale. They have a terrific staff. I can send my clients during the day and know that my account manager, or anyone there, will take the time to make my clients comfortable and to help them make sound decisions. They treat my customers like I would. That’s huge, because I’m a service-oriented company. I am confident that they will take care of my customers and roll out the red carpet for them.

I really feel that ProSource Wholesale is a very large part of my success. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without them. They’re part of my team, and my number-one supplier. They treat my customers like gold. How can you ask for anything more than that?


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