BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Dave and Sandy Holtkamp on some days think their 30 years in business has been a long journey. But in the next sentence looking at their son Bobby and his wife Jessica, they think, “Where has the time gone.”
Either way, it’s been 30 years… already.
On October 4, the family will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Floors, Decor and More, now doing business under the leadership of Bobby and Jessica as Holtkamp’s Floors Decor & Furniture. The original company name was held for 28 years, until Bobby and Jessica brought furniture in the fold for three years and then they changed the name to market the new structure better.
Sandy brought the retail from her Kempker’s upbringing around hardware and Dave brought his career of installing flooring to a marriage that one day, kind of out of the blue, morphed into a business partnership. Fast-forward 30 years and now it’s their son’s family’s business and the four of them keep customers in the tri-state area floored, furnished and more.
Dave said they bought the building from George Lyle after it had sat vacant for more than two years after a struggling restaurant owner bolted town overnight leaving everything as it was.
The building was originally a car dealership before it was the restaurant. Sandy said when they bought the business, Bobby would come in at 4 years old and help scrape the gunk off the floors. Dave said they brought a dumpster to the property and literally pitched everything in the building.
The couple bought the place in August and opened October 11, 1988
“It was an interesting first few years I’ll tell you. We really didn’t have much, but it’s all turned out good.”
He said for the first three to five years things were very touch and go and some months they didn’t know if the bills would get paid.
“When we opened we had three boys, Wes was 11 months old, Bobby was four, and Scott was 8. We looked at each other at times and said, “What were we thinking?” Sandy said.
Dave said the most difficult part of getting open was finding inventory.
“The hardest part was figuring out how I was going to get people to supply us. If there was another store in town, it was difficult for them to say, ‘We’re going to go against the guy that’s buying from us already and sell to you. We actually started with just one carpet company, Mohawk, and then Armstrong vinyl and that was all we had.”
He said they looked at going into a bigger market, but they didn’t have the money for it.
“And I’m a momma’s girl,” Sandy said, and the two decided to settle in Fort Madison.
The two made appointments with just about every bank in town and most weren’t interested.
“We pretty much went to every bank before we finally got one to go with us, and once they got behind us it was, ‘whatever you need’ because they didn’t want us to fail.”
When Bobby came back eight years ago from Ohio and wanted to work in the family business, Dave told his son he wouldn’t be allowed to come back at the top of the company.
“You’re not going to come back as the boss, you’re going to go out and install. I think that was very good for Bobby because the installers now respect him because he knows what that work is.”
Sandy said the business took off and has survived because people knew the Holtkamps and the Kempkers to have strong business acumen and stood behind their work.
“I think a lot of it was that people came to us because we were doing the work ourselves, we were well-known in town, and we stood behind our products,” Sandy said.
Dave said customer service has always been their top priority and that’s helped build the business, as well.
He said they never could have done it alone. They had to have each other to vent to and then solid family in the area to help with the kids and to keep them motivated.
Dave said Sandy’s dad, Bob Kempker, used to offer encouragement and motivation.
“We would be over at the house and we’d be talking about things being rough and he would just snap up and say ‘C’mon. You can do this. You can make this work,’. They never gave us money, but their encouragement and wisdom can’t be measured,” Dave said.
The first expansion came when the Holtkamps added a warehouse. There were two homes to the east of the retail front and Dave secured the use of their garages for padding and carpet. In 2003, they added the warehouse on the back of the property.
From the original days with Dave and Sandy and one salesperson, the company has grown to four full-time installers and three paid sales staff in addition to Dave and Sandy who still work at the business, and Bobby and Jessica running the show.
The Holtkamps will be holding a Business After Hours from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4 with hot dogs and hamburgers and beverages. There will be some specials to kick off the 30th anniversary that will run from Oct. 4- Oct. 20.
Jessica said there will be some flooring specials up to 30% off and customers will be able to take advantage of a Buy-One, Get-One of equal or lesser value 50% off of furniture.
Bobby said a lot of the credit for the business goes to the sales and installation staff that have kept the company name solid.
“We owe a lot of credit to the staff,” Bobby said. “We’ve been very fortunate with employees from installers to sales staff.”
Community is still a big part of the Holtkamp business model.
“When we first started out, we had to pick and choose what we gave to. But we made it a point to be at all the events so people could see our face,” Sandy said.
Bobby said his grandparents would always give to community events and groups.
“That’s been instilled in me forever – to give back to the community,” he said. “My grandparents, it may have been a $5 gift certificate or $100 certificate, but they tried to give whenever they could. I try to carry that with me,” he said.
Sandy said she and Dave were excited when Bobby and Jessica wanted to buy the business two years ago.
“We were very excited when the two of them came to us and asked to buy us out. They are doing a great job and we couldn’t be more proud of what’s going on.”
Bobby said he still relies on his parents for guidance.
“I still ask questions. I think I might know the answer, but I still ask the question.”