Carpet Sales has put its product where its mouth is, shunning imports to solely offer customers American-made carpet, rugs, hardwood, tile and other flooring.
Owner and President Brad Snelson calls the move in May of 2011 the “biggest change” in the family-owned company’s nearly 42-year history. His reasons are patriotic and economic-fueled. “We are making this change to preserve and protect American jobs, communities and values,” Snelson said. “We want to do our part. We want to do something positive for our country.”
Snelson emphasized how “it makes sense that ‘buying American’ saves American jobs. Everybody can help our country.”
His father and company co-founder J.B. Snelson applauds the move. “I’m very, very proud we’re promoting the American workman and economy. We’ve sold too much of our economy and jobs, to foreign governments,” most notably Chinese businesses, he added. J.B. blames high corporate taxation for driving operations and jobs overseas.
There is a quality component to buying American, Brad Snelson said. “It’s far superior in flooring, especially hardwoods. They’re not shipped all the way across the world. When its harvested near you, moisture in wood remains more constant. And you’re getting woods of your region — oaks, hickory, walnut, maple and cherries.”
Snelson cited an accountability bonus. “We buy much of our wood from Johnson City,” just across the Tennessee border north of Asheville. “We know the people in the plants. If there’s a problem, they know who we are and fix it. We’re not just a (budgetary) figure.”
Though much is made about Chinese discount pricing, Snelson said after price-shopping with suppliers “we found out Americans learned to compete in pricing, and offer better quality. We didn’t sacrifice in price at all.”
He carries such major brands as Shaw, Mohawk and Bruce wood. He likes how Mannington pulled its production out of China, in a pro-American move. He researches to figure which companies manufacture where, noting even one with USA in its name now has product made in China.
Further, sources vary even with a product line. Displays in the store have blanks where workers removed items found to be made in China. Leicester Carpet takes such precaution, to back its U.S.-only pledge. Snelson added, “we threw away three dumpster fulls of samples.”
The shift worked. Sales improved. “We had a better year in 2012, than before,” Brad Snelson said. Customers sent about 40 emails and 75 phone messages, in addition to in-store thanks, Brad Snelson said. “We get a comment about every day, about how we sell all-American products.” And he said “our sales people have a great deal of pride and enthusiasm, that we can make a difference.”
Leicester Carpet made the Congressional Record, with a commendation from then-U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler for supporting domestic companies and workers.
Snelson cautioned “the economy is still very tough. We’re tied to the housing market. But we’re continually striving to do things better than our competition, to set us apart and “wow’ customers.”
For instance, after installing carpet “we vacuum all of the jobs we do, as before, but now with our own vacuums.” Lifetime warranty is also “very unique,” he said. “We’ve been doing that since 2000. Carpet stretches and, after time, it relaxes. If you have some wrinkles, we’ll come out and re-stretch it.”
Customer Butch Oxner wrote Snelson how Leicester Carpet “outshines all others” with “your professional customer-oriented service and product.” Sales staff is paid for time, not by commissions, which deters pressuring.
Snelson backs the Crossfire basketball ministry. He said of business success, “it’s all to God being the glory.” God and country are treasures the Snelsons openly support, despite squelching from “political correctness.” Many customers praised what one lady termed standing up for eroding “values.”
Though carpet is in the business name, by now “half of our business is in wood,” Brad Snelson said. He knows wood.
Of course, the Snelson home has carpeted bedrooms and much hardwood — hand-scraped, brown-red hickory three-fourths of an inch thick. Brad said, “It has an antique look and doesn’t show scratches as much as other woods. Because of its thickness, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished over several generations of use” It expands and contracts with humidity changes. Thus, there is an “expansion gap” between the floor and wall hid by base molding.
Layered “engineered wood” is affected by humidity variance, and suitable for all elevation levels, Snelson said. Three to five hardwood layers are stacked in a cross-grain pattern. Layers are “bonded under heat and pressure,” Snelson said.
J.B. and Alma Snelson started the business from their Leicester home, in 1971. Leicester Carpet has large showrooms in Hendersonville at 1229 7th Ave E., and in Asheville at 119 New Leicester Hwy. In a true “mom and pop” operation, Mrs. Snelson (who died 16 years ago) handled sales and J.B. led installation. “My father liked to work with his hands,” Brad said. “He worked hard.”
J.B. was christened J.B. Son Brad was named Jay Bradrick, also getting J.B. as initials. Brad Snelson, 38, has run the business for 17 years since age 21. His sister Lynne Dorsey helped then and now runs Medallion Pool Co. in Arden. “We had to grow up quick,” Brad recalled.
Brad still lives in Leicester, three miles from where he grew up. Brad and Melanie Snelson’s children are Chesney, 16, Savannah, 11, Bradshaw, 8, and son True, 5. Family heritage is traced to Swedish-Saxon in 14th Century England.
Brad said he carried on his parents’ “integrity and attention to customer service,” value pricing and reputation for reliable quality to fend off national stores. “We have the best selection, the best installers, and the best warranty in the business.” He added, “Our business was built on our skilled installers. Most have worked for us for many years. They treat each customer’s home with respect, doing their job expertly and neatly.”
He calls Leicester Carpet “the preferred choice of builders. We meet their deadlines. If we say we’ll be there Tuesday, we’re there Tuesday.”
Managers of the two stores are Kelley Brunelle in Hendersonville, and Darrie Earley in Asheville. Brunelle and co-worker Susan Seals are among very creative interior designers, in matching styles and colors. Brunelle even implemented Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute’s vision, mixing three ceramic tile patterns into an artsy cross shape. It is in the sanctuary entrance, and replicated in both carpet showrooms.
Other notable jobs by Leicester Carpet include carpeting federal courtrooms in Asheville and one for Waynesville transit which specified American products.
For more on Leicester Carpet, call the stores in Hendersonville at 233-0500 or Asheville at 254-8937, or check www.leicestercarpet.com.