Ethen Pettenger has worked in the flooring business since 1989, but he waited until the height of a recession to open his own shop.
He named his Morro Bay shop Flooring Discount Center, and used every means possible to keep his overhead down so that he could offer bargain prices on a variety of flooring.
The showroom he and partner Jonnie Bicknell opened in February 2009 is a little off the beaten path. It’s also small -- just 1,100 square feet.
“We kept it a small family operation,” he said. “I knew a lot of contractors and property managers in the area, so we were able to buy in volume.”
Pettenger claims that he offers discounts of 30 to 50 percent off of normal retail pricing. However, he doesn’t aim to compete with home improvement superstores and their bargain flooring lines.
“There’s so much low end out there,” he said. “I wanted to focus on midrange and high-end flooring that normally people wouldn’t be able to afford.”
Pettenger spent many years as a flooring installer, but he opts to refer customers to other licensed installers in the area.
“It’s another way people can save, because the store’s not making a markup on installation,” he said.
The Flooring Discount Center offers hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl, woven vinyl, porcelain and ceramic tile, cork, seagrass, wool, and conventional carpeting. It also sells wood and faux shutters.
The prices of many of these materials have dropped in the last two years due to the flailing economy. According to Pettenger, hardwood has seen the most dramatic price reductions.
“There’s hardwood that a couple years ago would have sold at eight or nine dollars a square foot and is going out now at four dollars,” he said.
Some prices are starting to rebound, however. The price of carpeting, he said, has already begun to rise, and other materials are likely to follow.
Affordability has made wood Pettenger’s best selling material. The most popular styles are rustic, hand-scraped woods like hickory, which account for about 80 percent of all his wood flooring sales.
“The more you dent and beat up these floors, the more character they have,” he said.
By contrast, sales of exotic hardwoods like Brazilian cherry, sapele, merbeau, and santos mahogany have almost come to a halt. He attributes this to greater environmental awareness and the appeal of more sustainable wood choices.
Discount Flooring is located at 365 Quintana Rd. Suite A, Morro Bay, 772-2211.