Backstory

Backstory: Home-grown flooring company proves to have high ceiling

vbridges@newsobserver.comMarch 11, 2013 

Don Eisden is owner of commercial flooring company Royalwood Associates in Raleigh.

VIRGINIA BRIDGES — vbridges@newsobserver.com

  • Don Eidson’s advice •  Pay attention to your work orders, especially the good ones. •  Have a passion for what you are doing. •  Have family support.

— Don Eidson is passionate about floors.

“Absolutely,” Eidson, 70, said. “Ever since the day I started.”

Eidson owns Royalwood Associates, a commercial flooring company that he founded in 1982 in his spare bedroom.

Royalwood supplies and installs athletic wood and synthetic floors, performing-art floor systems and other commercial hardwood floors. The company also repairs and refinishes floor systems. Schools account for about 75 percent of Royalwood’s business, but the firm also built the stage system for the Durham Performing Arts Center and refinished the basketball court floors at the Greensboro Coliseum, which will host the ACC men’s tournament starting Thursday.

“It turned out fabulous,” Eidson said about the Greensboro floor.

Connor Sports Flooring, Royalwood’s main supplier, donates portable flooring for the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four.

About 44 years ago, Eidson abandoned an architect apprenticeship in Statesville and became a partner in Roth-Roberts, a Charlotte company that sold recreational floors. That business was shuttered in 1971 after Eidson and his partner had a disagreement about money management.

Eidson worked for Raleigh recreational flooring company R.L. Dresser for nine years until he decided to take on another partner and open C.P.R Industries, a company that built synthetic running tracks and fieldhouses in Orlando. That business was dissolved a year later following another money management disagreement with his then partner.

In January 1982, Eidson moved back to Raleigh with his wife and two sons and founded Royalwood Associates in the spare bedroom of their home. Initially, Eidson, who had four field employees at the time, sought maintenance and refinishing jobs, but he quickly expanded the business by working his existing contacts and providing quality work and customer service, he said.

In 1984, Royalwood was handling about 15 new floor installations and 20 refinishing jobs per year, and Eidson moved the business into a 4,000-square-foot leased space on Westgate Road. Eidson purchased an 8,000-square-foot building on ACC Boulevard in Raleigh in 2001 to house the company that was doing about 40 new floor installations and just as many maintenance jobs annually.

New installations, such as with gymnasium floors, typically cost about $80,000, while aerobics studio floors cost about $10,000. Annual patching and refinishing jobs cost from $10,000 to $15,000, Eidson said.

Revenue eventually hit $6 million in 2007, but had dropped down to $3 million by 2009 because of the poor economy.

“The only way to navigate it is to get rid of some overhead,” Eidson said.

Eidson cut the number of employees, including field and office workers, from 33 to 11, but brought back a few field workers as contractors. Eidson also stopped collecting a salary in 2011.

Eidson started reaching out to existing customers, produced a new brochure and focused on getting maintenance jobs, which are faster to obtain and complete than new installations.

Now, Eidson believes the company has survived the worst, and the market is turning around.

“It is a good feeling to persevere,” he said. “That is what you have got to do.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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