Ralph's Blog

You Want Me To Grab the What?

Posted on Sat, Jan 31, 2015 @ 11:01 AM


Once when I was a working for my father at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, Dad asked a new guy on our installation team to grab the Double Wambo.

For a second you could see the guy thinking to himself, “Grab a what?” Then he started grinning and nodding, as if he had just figured out that Dad was pulling a version of the old “get me a left-handed monkey wrench” practical joke.

There’s no such thing as a left-handed monkey wrench (right-handed or left-handed, it doesn’t matter), and the new guy figured there was no such thing as a Double Wambo either.

But there was such a thing. Dad invented it.

I was first introduced to the Double Wambo when I started sanding floors at age 13. It looked funky, but I quickly learned to appreciate it because it helped me sand faster, which made me happy and also pleased customers. 

What Dad had done was split our sander’s sanding dust exhaust pipe into two pipes so that two bags for the sanding dust could be attached instead of one. The Double Wambo allowed us to sand for twice as long without having to stop to empty the bag.

We’ve come a long way since then. We now hook our sanding machines to hoses connected to a trailer outside the home. A powerful vacuum engine sucks sanding dust straight from the sander into the trailer, eliminating all dust from the home.

The Double Wambo’s benefit to Ralph’s may not seem like much compared to the efficiencies we get with the equipment we have now.  Nonetheless, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ralph’s and look back over the years, the Double Wambo sticks out in my mind as an important part of our history. That’s because it serves as a clear, early example of Dad’s mindset of always looking for better ways to do things—a mindset that has driven our growth into the leading hardwood flooring company in northeast Wisconsin.

Back when we were using the Double Wambo, it gave us an edge over our competition. We could do jobs faster, with less mess, than they could. Customers loved it because we were out of their way faster, and we loved it because it made our jobs easier without sacrificing any quality.

Dad could have done things the way everyone else did them, but he didn’t. He looked at the situation, realized there was a more efficient way, and then did something about it. Since I took over as president of Ralph’s I’ve devoted myself to doing the same thing.

We’re still looking for Double Wambos. We’re constantly evaluating our installation processes and techniques, searching for better ways to beautifully install and restore floors while minimizing disruptions to our customers.

Dad passed away late last year, but his memory will never be forgotten at Ralph’s. I’m not going to forget the Double Wambo either—it reminds me of the wonderful example my father set.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: stories, about Ralph's

Ralph's celebrates bittersweet 50th anniversary

Posted on Sat, Jan 17, 2015 @ 16:01 PM


Fifty years ago, my father, Ralph Lorenz, took the courageous step of leaving his job at a hardwood flooring company in Appleton to start his own hardwood floor business in Black Creek.

He had a six-year-old daughter and a newborn son (me), and he was looking to the future. He wanted security for his family, and he believed (correctly) that he could achieve it with Ralph’s Hardwoods Floors.

He also loved installing and restoring hardwood floors, and he was very good at it. He wanted to ensure he could keep fulfilling this passion the rest of his life.

Dad started Ralph’s from his garage as a one-man shop, but business quickly grew though word-of-mouth. In the 50 years since, we’ve grown from Dad’s one-man shop in his garage into a company employing 35 people, with a beautiful showroom in Black Creek, and customers across northeast Wisconsin.

We’re extremely proud to be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, and we will be offering special promotions throughout 2015 to mark the occasion. However, our commemoration of 50 years in business is bittersweet because Dad passed away late last year.

We miss him and wish he were here to celebrate with us. Ralph’s is his “baby,” after all. In 1992, I took over as president, but the values that Dad instilled in the business have always remained our guiding principles. 

We wouldn’t have made it for 50 years, growing our business constantly, if it wasn’t for one such value that Dad always repeated to me—“If you’re not moving forward in business, you’re moving backwards.”

What that means for us at Ralph’s is that we don’t rest on our laurels. We know that if we do, we’ll go “backwards,” falling behind the competition.

If we make a sale, we could be satisfied with that—go in, do the minimum required, and cash our check. But Dad didn’t operate that way, and we don’t operate that way now. To keep Ralph’s moving forward, we know we need to go above-and-beyond. We have to provide first-rate customer service and the highest-quality craftsmanship.

Going forward also means not being content with doing things the way we’ve always done them. That’s why we focus on staying on top of trends in styles, products, and techniques.

This philosophy affects everything we do. For example, when we’re hiring, a  key evaluation we make is whether a job candidate will be satisfied with “okay” or whether they will always looking for better ways to do things and opportunities to wow customers.

Dad used to tell me that he started Ralph’s on the day I was born. I’m not sure about that, but I just celebrated my 50th birthday, so I do know he started it in the same year. I’ve been involved with Ralph’s since I was a young boy, and it seems strange for Dad not to be around anymore. But just as he would have wanted, Ralph’s will keep moving forward.

Dad spirit lives on at Ralph’s. And thanks to the foundation he built, we’re poised to keep doing what he loved—pleasing customers with beautiful hardwood floors—for another 50 years and beyond.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: stories, about Ralph's

Downton Abbey, Hardwood Floors, and Old World Style

Posted on Sat, Jan 03, 2015 @ 12:01 PM

I know a lot of people who just can’t wait for the U.S. season premiere of Downton Abbey tomorrow night. They’ve been itching for this day to come for almost a year, ever since the last episode aired here.

I have to admit, I’m not a regular Downton Abbey viewer. I respect the opinion of the people who tell me it’s marvelously written, acted, and directed, but I just haven’t had the time to get into it yet.

One thing about the show has struck me, though—the beautiful interior shots of Downton Abbey, most of which were filmed in the real-life Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England. Gorgeous hardwood floors are in rooms throughout that castle, and they catch the eye of a hardwood floor guy like me!

Not to take anything away from the quality of the show, but I think a lot of its appeal lies in the style it invokes—European gentility and refinement. The way the characters talk, behave, and dress invokes Old World culture. In the chaotic 21st century, that style appeals to people who are nostalgic for a classier, more mannered time.

It seems to me that the hardwood floors in the castle have that same appeal. I certainly know that at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, we get many visitors to our showroom who are interested in a very stately, dignified look. And lately we’ve been getting more of them.

For example, we’ve seen a recent rise in the popularity of parquet floors, which have been a favorite of the European aristocratic class for centuries.

“Parquet” simply means that the floor is made up of geometric patterns. The most widely known example is herringbone, but the variations are endless.

There’s a parquet floor in the entranceway to Downton Abbey (i.e., Highclere Castle). It’s made of marble, but hardwood is great for parquet floors, as well. When installed by skilled artisans like we have at Ralph’s, hardwood parquet floors can look absolutely amazing—worthy of any European castle.

Parquet floors aren’t the only way homeowners can get a Downton Abbey look.  Hardwood floors can be made to look elegant in many ways, such as using dark colors, closed grain patterns, glossy finishes, narrow boards, and exotic species. It’s not difficult—the inherent character of hardwoods make them ideal for creating a formal feel.

There’s a reason you see so many hardwood floors in Downton Abbey, as well as in so many homes being built today. Their classiness is timeless.

Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highclere_Castle#mediaviewer/File:Highclere_Castle.jpg

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood flooring trends

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