Strong Foundation Allows Flooring Company to Flourish
There is an old adage about not mixing business with pleasure, but Brevard County power couple Don and Julie Herndon seem to have figured it out. They have worked side by side for two decades, run a successful and thriving business, and love helping others.
When you meet the Herndons, you see a successful, joyful, happy couple. After 27 years of marriage, they still love spending time together and wish they had more. They own Classic Wood Flooring in Rockledge and share a 12x12 office with a view of the river.
“We share an office,” Julie said, “but we never talk during work. We’re too busy.”
They donate their time and finances to numerous organizations in the Brevard community. While there is a lot of pleasure in what they do — which seems to spill over onto their employees, associates and the community — life is not all fun and games.
Behind their benevolent lifestyle and smiling faces are two very hard working individuals.
“People think we have been lucky,” Julie said, “but that isn’t it. It takes work.”
Don started in the flooring business in 1971 and quickly became a master flooring installer. Together Julie and Don opened Classic Wood Flooring in 1998 and have steadily built the company into one of the most successful flooring retailers in Florida, with 84 employees and plans for expansion.
But for the first few years, it was just Julie and Don working together tirelessly, filling all the roles their new business needed, and learning as they went.
“We had to put a second mortgage on our home to open the business,” Julie said. “We painted molding in the garage on the weekend. We worked all the time. It was just the two of us and we did everything. We didn’t think about how hard it was, we just did it.”
They divided their roles.
Don, the master flooring installer, worked as a contractor for two home-improvement chain stores in addition to installing floors for the new Classic Wood Flooring business. Meanwhile, Julie took care of the books, answered phones and solicited new business. In a time before social media and cell phones, building a business meant going door-to-door and meeting people face-to-face. It was about building relationships that last and word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers. Their reputation in Brevard grew, but it would take three years before they were able to hire their first salesperson.
Respect for their staff and a complete customer satisfaction guarantee helped the Herndon’s business succeed and are part of what keeps their business growing still. The couple give a lot of credit for their success to their staff.
“People ask how many employees we have,” Don said. “We don’t have employees — we have a family of people we work with. We’re all on the same level.”
“It took a long time to get the right people in,” Julie said. “Our staff are professional and respectful… they may specialize in installing flooring, but they are also cross-trained to better serve the customer. They leave a good impression when they are in someone’s house.”
The Herndons regularly organize celebrations and events that include staff, associates and clients. They deliver turkeys on Thanksgiving, organize bowling leagues, dinner parties and more. The family atmosphere keeps everyone feeling included.
“It’s not about us. It’s what you want your legacy to be,” Julie said.
However, even families struggle when disaster hits. In 2004, the Herndon’s opened their new showroom in the middle of three hurricanes, which took a toll on their growing business. Sales slowed and they were faced with a tough decision. They could fire staff or reduce pay across the board.
“It was tough,” recalled Julie, who always handled the finances, “but we didn’t let any of our employees go.” Instead of firing one or two employees to make ends meet, they asked all staff to take a small pay cut.
As Classic Wood Flooring grew, they realized it was time to build their own showroom and warehouse. Finding the property where their business now stands on U.S. 1 near Suntree Boulevard was more than just luck.
“Everything was a God thing,” Julie said, referring to the purchase of the property. They have also have been acquiring additional land around the showroom.
It’s not just business for Don and Julie though. “Our faith in God comes first,” Don said.
“It’s not about us,” Julie added. “It’s: What do you want your legacy to be?”
With three grown children between them, grandchildren and extended family, they have taken an interest in the lives of children across Brevard County. Through organizations such as Nana’s House, AMIkids and Candlelighters, the Herndon’s are changing lives.
Through consistent hard work and integrity during almost 50 years in the flooring business, Don and Julie have built a legacy of generosity along with a network of strong friendships and community relationships that are positively impacting Brevard County.
Read more articles in our DIGITAL MAGAZINE.