ONE LONG MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. celebrates 50 years
Author: Dave Dondoneau
Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. will spend part of 2022 basking in a well-earned commemoration of the company’s golden anniversary, a magic carpet ride through 50 years of a labor of love. The rest of the year will be spent as all the others are, in service to its clients and positioning the firm for the next 50 years. They’re confident there will be a 100th birthday party. The formal anniversary in November 2022 marks the official date the company was established under Richard St. Aubin and George Moffat. The founders then incorporated in 1974. Sadly and unexpectedly, Moffat died in 1998.
St. Aubin has done it from the floor up quite literally, starting in the flooring industry as an installer’s helper in the mid-1960s. It’s a reminder, he says, that hard work and dedication can take one from a humble beginning like his to CEO of a successful company. It also highlights the many possibilities for young people in search of an alternative to the now-traditional path of college.
Today, says Susan Hoblit, President, the company is a preferred provider of flooring material and installation of soft surfaces and most hard surfaces. Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. also performs demolition, concrete remediation, concrete moisture mitigation and concrete leveling.
An extensive product library allows extensive options for clients, designers and architects. The recipe for success is nurturing relationships through the integrity of their work and word, a commitment to a business built on service to contractors, as well as a commitment to quality and to each other at the company.
Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. management team members (left to right): Christina Zamora, Susan Hoblit and Gary Roberts.
Peers Notice Firm’s Success
“What I love about it is that it’s far from being a corporate environment,” says Hoblit, who has led the company since 2010. Everyone here is driven to educate and learn from our clients and do the best job we can. We know we’re not perfect and we make mistakes, but we always make things right.”
Peers have noticed the work they do, too. Cornerstone Building Foundation, a nonprofit composed of design and construction leaders, named the company Subcontractor of the Year in 2002. The apex came a year later with an invitation to join the Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership, the world’s largest network of full-service independent flooring contractors that is committed to the highest standards of excellence in the industry. Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. was the first and only Tucson and Southern Arizona dealer to meet the service, experience and financial criteria required for membership in the network.
Membership in Starnet, Hoblit says, provides the company firsthand accessibility to preferred vendors, the vendors’ executive management and technical teams, along with educational opportunities and training for every team member—from administrative, sales and project management to installation professionals.
“Our primary focus is integrity,” Hoblit says. “We have literally walked away from installs if they can’t be done properly.”
In 2020, the company achieved $5 million in total revenue, a bit of a downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In good times, the company did roughly double that amount, Hoblit says. The company employs 41, also down a bit, she says.
“Our goal is not to be a huge company,” she says. “We turn down a lot of opportunities. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position of committing to do something and then not being able to perform. Our goal is to make sure that our people have a solid future here and that they stay with us and be well compensated for what they do.
“The size of the company isn’t really an issue,” she says. “Quality and repeat business are the focus. After we do business with people, they are usually pretty loyal to us,” she adds.
The company’s corporate culture is nurtured by St. Aubin, who though essentially retired, remains the CEO. Gary Roberts is Vice President and Senior Project Manager, while Christina Zamora works as the company’s Office and Accounting Manager as well as Secretary and Treasurer—positions she has held since 1995. Other shareholders include Maria Santa Cruz, Chris Barnard and Agnes Sheldon.
St. Aubin is doing the ultimate for his executive staff, setting in motion a process of transferring ownership to them. He believes that passing on the company gives the senior team full access to the American dream, just as he has lived it. And, when that purchase is complete, the company’s ownership majority will be women, Hoblit says with pride.
“Richard never hesitates to express how blessed he has been to maintain such a successful company and acknowledges the role his staff has played in that success,” Hoblit adds.
Our Niche is Our Passion
The company has two project managers who focus on general contracting work and two others who generally do renovation projects, Hoblit says. Project diversity assists in maintaining cash flow rather than waiting on payment on a project that might take six months to start and six months to finish.
“We try not to put all our eggs in one basket,” Hoblit says. “As much as we love large projects because they’re large and challenging, from a financial aspect they also tie up your resources. We like a mix.”
Early on in the company’s history, St. Aubin and Moffat took on projects with IBM, Learjet (now Bombardier) and the University of Arizona, according to Hoblit. Other projects that stand out, she says, include the Oro Valley Hospital, built from the ground up as the first major medical facility in the northwest area of Tucson.
“The Desert Diamond Casino ground-up project led to the more recent Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel renovation. The renovation allowed the opportunity for our entire team to collaborate in the planning, coordination and installation to meet a demanding schedule. We also had to assure minimal disruption of business,” Hoblit says.
The company’s work on the Banner Health Diamond Children’s Medical Center “will always hold a special place in our history,” she says. But it’s the work on the Ronald McDonald House in Tucson that makes Hoblit beam. The charity opened in 1981 as a respite for families with children receiving care in local hospitals. In 2020, a renovation project was completed at the House and Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. installed the flooring, a Star project for the company.
“It’s a favorite,” Hoblit says. “It was absolutely gorgeous when it was finished. And that didn’t come about just from installation.
“Children and families are provided extraordinary care and treatment, hence there was a total commitment from the owner, the general contractor and our team to assure that each and every aspect of the project was done ‘right,’ from concept to design and execution.”
Philanthropy Requires No Arm Twisting
The spirit of humanity with which the company took on the Ronald McDonald House project is transferrable to the many philanthropic enterprises Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. embraces. The company participates annually in “Volunteer Day,” a program of the Arizona Builders Alliance in which property improvements are made to selected charities.
In recent years, the beneficiaries of these service projects have included St. Luke’s Home, a local Tucson nonprofit assisted-living community for ages 55 and older of limited financial means. Another benefited TMM Family Services, which for four decades has assisted the most vulnerable populations of southern Arizona, including at-risk families and children in foster care, abused single mothers, seniors and veterans.
The company has also supported and sponsored a number of charitable events organized by local casinos, community health care providers and industry groups.
“Many of these events include golf tournaments to which we have to twist Gary Roberts’ arm,” Hoblit jokes about the vice president’s apparent golf hobby. “Just kidding!” No arm twisting was necessary.
Company Culture a Touchdown
Another of Hoblit’s favorite projects was the renovation of the North End Zone at Arizona Stadium, the football home field of the University of Arizona. Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc. installed the floor and wall tile, as well as the university’s logo, in the locker room showers and bathrooms, as well as in the upper lounge area for visitors and football fans.
“We recall saying, ‘Wow, what a view!’ ” Hoblit says. “As alum and Wildcat fans, it is an awesome experience to know we had a small part in making them winners!” she says. “The facility is amazing and is a definite draw to the U of A and Tucson.
“Although these projects are memorable, our team puts their hearts and souls into every project, no matter who the client or the size of the project.”
Hoblit says the company will do in the neighborhood of 600 projects in 2021, which is typical of most years. She estimates that 75% of their work comes from repeat customers.
“We have an excellent working relationship with them,” says Tommy Roof, Project Director of W.E. O’Neil Construction Company of Arizona. “They are a very customer-satisfaction driven organization. During the design phase of a project, they will take ideas provided by the design team and/or owner and bring options to the project that meet the desired intent along with pricing to assist in making decisions.
“During the construction phase, their coordination with other trades is great,” he says. “They are willing to work around sometimes difficult scheduling requirements to meet the needs of the project. Combine that with quality work and a solutions-based mentality and they make an excellent trade partner on our projects.”
Hoblit says, “Even though it has a family feel and not a full corporate structure, we are all very committed and structured in our own manner.” She adds, “We hold each other accountable and have pretty high expectations of anybody who is here. We have fun, we do a lot of things to make it fun, but we also realize it’s a business and we have to do what is right.” That’s why the company’s leadership believes in 50 years, they’ll be partying like it’s 2022.
Winning—or losing—money at the Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel is more comfy after the handiwork of Tucson Commercial Carpet, Inc.