Nineteen years ago, Rock Bottom Carpets co-founder Bill Trail found himself in a spot that no one enjoys, better known as the crucible, or, in modern language, “Rock Bottom.” He was going through a divorce, living in his car because he wanted his family to be comfortable and not uprooted, and he had no job. His co-worker and best friend from an earlier flooring job, Beau Kyne, got together with Bill and started Rock Bottom Carpets. They were able to use a single abandoned carpet sample display, and borrowed sample decks. They chose the name as a way to remember where they had been, and have never looked back.
“We borrowed $900 from a relative to open our first store,” he told me, and since then there have been Rock Bottom locations throughout North Alabama. This is the type of American small business story I love to tell the most, often affectionately known as “mess-to-success,” and while I listened to Bill field calls from customers as well as crews working out in the field, I could see why his drive and willingness to take care of customers has paid off.
“Our first big break occurred when musical artist Cooper Getchel came in the store, needing a vinyl floor at a bargain rate,” he told me. Cooper worked for the late Michael Jackson and other famous musicians, and had just finished a jingle for WHNT. He offered to write Bill and Beau a jingle in exchange for the merchandise. They agreed, the jingle went on the radio, and the result was almost more business than they could handle. They were rolling, and it wasn’t long before they began to build several new locations.
The latest success story is the store located in Athens on Hwy 72 just across from M.E.W.S. lighting. The address is 802 Hwy 72 W, Athens, AL, 35611. The others are in Huntsville, Madison, and Decatur. When I walked in to the store, Bill had already sold 2 new orders that morning.
Any retail industry, store or service has a “niche,” the sweet spot from which most of their business is attracted through word of mouth or other kinds of advertising. For Rock Bottom Carpets, the majority of their business is defined as “existing residential” and with a smile, Bill, (who clearly loves a challenge), told me “because no one wants it.” This is because you never know what you are going to be encountering; often there is repair or replacement involved with the sub-flooring, and it can be both toxic and dangerous. It so happens that we are in need of replacing our main bathroom floor, so I began to talk to Bill as a would-be customer.
“First of all,” he said, “if you order by 2pm, we can install it the next day.” We looked at some medium range vinyl flooring that is similar in appearance to the present one, and much better quality. Bill quickly calculated everything, including the removal and reinstallation of the toilet, putting down marine board for the subflooring, installing the vinyl, and finishing it with quarter round. The total package? $273.
Bill is passionate about saving people money, and strengthening the local economy. ”If you will do a little of the work, (moving the small things), “we will save you big bucks,” he said. Rock Bottom has extremely low overhead, all installers are insured, all products are made in North America, and some right here in Alabama. He loves beating the prices of big box stores, and his operating philosophy is, “Why send money to other states?”
Rock Bottom is also the exclusive distributor for the Dreamweaver Soft Nylon line of carpet in North Alabama. “Dreamweaver is unusual, because it is the industry’s first bleach resistant nylon carpet,” he said. Rock Bottom also specializes in Mohawk flooring, America’s number one name brand. “Dreamweaver Soft Nylon, and Mohawk Smartstrand Silk are the best carpets I have ever seen,” Bill said. You can tell that someone is sold on a product when they use it themselves, which Bill does.
During November and December, Rock Bottom Carpets is having a “Home for the Holidays” sale on carpet, hardwood and laminate flooring. “Now is the time to get started with getting your home ready for family and friends, and we are ready to help,” he said.
He told me that as a customer I would save money, he would overnight the materials and begin the project the next day, and his crews are “uber-experienced” and insured. “The customer has to be fully satisfied before anyone is paid,” he said, “so we are motivated to do an excellent job.” I would say that nearly two decades of “gettin’ ‘er done” with excellence and speed proves that he stands by his word, and if you are wanting to make your home more beautiful this holiday season without breaking the bank, come see what Rock Bottom has to offer.
Rock Bottom Carpets, Athens
802 Hwy 72 W, Athens, AL 35611
Hours: M-F 8:30-6, Sat, 9-5
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner