Portland-based firm expands to south metro area with a unique culture

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Area Floors owner Brandy Callaghan talks with visitors and customers last Tuesday at a celebratory grand opening held at the companys new Charbonneau location. Portland company Area Floors celebrated its expansion into the Wilsonville market last Tuesday, as owners Brandy and Kelly Callaghan held a celebratory grand opening at their new Charbonneau location.

It’s the third storefront for the company, which was founded as The Carpet Place in 1967 in Portland. In 2003, Brandy Callaghan took over ownership of the original Portland store and a second location in Tigard from company founder John Rollin. It was part of a long-standing succession plan crafted over years.

Kelly Callaghan, meanwhile, officially joined his wife as part of the firm last year after 25 years running Callaghan’s Custom Installations. Both say the expansion will allow them to better serve existing south metro area customers as well as create new customers in Canby, Aurora, Newberg and other outlying areas.

“We have customers down in this area and the footprint was small,” Kelly Callaghan said. “It’s a little different for us, we have two larger stores in Portland and Tigard, so they are almost three times the size of this; this is like a little boutique, which is kind of cool because it’s a little more personable, not that the other stores aren’t personal, but you just kind of dial it in and we feel like a real part of the community here.”

The company secured its spot in Charbonneau’s Village Square mall last fall and opened its doors to customers in late February. It specializes in hard-surface flooring options such as tile, hardwood and stone.

Of course, a range of carpet selections remains, but Brandy Callaghan said the popularity of carpeting has declined over the years in favor of easier-to-maintain hard surfaces. So much so, in fact, that this shift in business was the catalyst for the company’s name change away from The Carpet Place back in 2008.

At the same time, the mild Northwest climate still leads enough customers back to carpet to warrant a significant stock.

“Hardwoods, prefinished hardwoods, are a big portion of our business,” Brandy Callaghan said. “But you know, carpet still grabs people attention because we’re in the Northwest. We do a lot of tile and specialty glass, and we help a lot with design layout and we do design consults and stuff. It is really fun, and as an owner people ask are you still writing orders? But I still love being involved with customers.”

In Charbonneau, there will be a smaller inventory and more customer service, all part of scaling back the company’s normal operations at its other locations.

“We really had to dial down and we had to get really smart about what products to bring out here and what suppliers,” Callaghan said. “It was an interesting task to go through and figure that out.”

Like many companies, Area Floors also has moved online in a big way. Despite that, they don’t conduct sales in that venue. Instead, Callaghan said, they use a vigorous web presence, including social media, to help bring customers to their brick and mortar stores.

“We direct traffic to our stores from our online presence,” she said. “We have really great search engine optimization … flooring is not just a purchase you make after looking at Yelp or going to a restaurant. It’s usually a long process and there’s a lot of research done.”

Early career start

Brandy Callaghan started with Area Floors out of high school in 1988. She earned the then-minimum wage of $3.35 an hour, but it proved to be a job in which the experience gained far outweighed any financial benefit.

“I worked for him (Rollin) part time after school, just doing basically meaningless stuff for minimum wage,” she said. “And then I had no real pressure to go to college from my parents. It was after school and it was minimum wage, but it was something, so I just kept at it.”

Despite her young age, Callaghan’s role increased steadily. Barely five years later Rollin asked if she might one day be interested in taking over the reins of the business. Such a move had never occurred to her. But it didn’t take long to warm to the idea.

“He must have saw leadership in me that I never really knew I had,” she said. “He didn’t really want to sell the company to somebody who would drain it for its cash, and his children weren’t interested in it, so he was a really good mentor.”

In 1997, what was then still The Carpet Place expanded into Tigard, opening its second store and providing Callaghan with further opportunities for management experience. In 2003, Rollin pulled the trigger on his retirement and turned over the whole operation to her.

Years of advance planning helped smooth the way.

“We saw an attorney every year, he had a document drawn up that we reviewed every single year and we tweaked it or changed it and it was just an evolving document,” Callaghan explained. “So the transition was actually very smooth. The mental, ‘What did I get myself into?’ was different.”

But that didn’t last long. Today, Area Floors is not only expanding, it also prides itself in being a woman-owned-and- operated business. It’s all part of a valued corporate culture the Callaghans have nurtured over the years.

“We just have a different culture,” Brandy Callaghan said. “My people are part owners in the company, they all have passion every day when they come to work and that’s pretty refreshing. I empower them to make decisions like they were business owners themselves, and they all have a commitment to personal growth as well as professional growth, because we know personal and professional growth go hand in hand.”

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