Ralph's Blog

Col. Sanders “secret recipe” was never about the chicken

Posted on Sat, May 30, 2015 @ 09:05 AM


Young people today can be forgiven if they don’t realize the friendly, white-haired face staring at them from their bucket of KFC chicken isn’t just a logo someone created—it’s a representation of a real-life man, Harland Sanders.

“Col. Sanders,” as he was known, was an honorary Kentucky Colonel and the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which (as KFC) has become the second largest restaurant chain in the world in terms of sales.

I always liked Col. Sanders, from the days when he was a cultural icon as the star of the chain’s TV commercials. But my enjoyment of the colorful “character” on screen grew into real admiration when I later learned the story of his life and success.

In a way, Col. Sanders reminds me of my Dad, Ralph Lorenz, who founded Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. They were both entrepreneurs at heart, with a passion for identifying a customer need and then fulfilling it.

Col. Sanders, who was born in 1890, held many diverse jobs as a young man—Army soldier, blacksmith’s assistant, train fireman, un-degreed lawyer, and life insurance salesman among them. Responding to needs he saw, he started several ventures, including a ferry boat company and a company that manufactured acetylene lamps.

When the Great Depression hit, Sanders took a job running a gas station for Shell Oil Co. in Corbin, Kentucky. The gas business was tough, and Sanders—whose compensation was a share of the profits—was desperate to find a way for the station to earn more money. So he began asking himself the age-old entrepreneurial question: What do my customers need that I can sell to them?”

One thing he couldn’t help but notice was that many people who stopped at his station were looking for a place to get a good meal.  An accomplished cook since his youth, Sanders realized that was a need he could meet. 

So he began selling prepared food, including fried chicken made with his “secret recipe,” an item that proved particularly popular. Eventually, Sanders closed the station and turned the location into a real restaurant. That was the beginning of what came to be Kentucky Fried Chicken and eventually KFC.

Likewise, Dad had many different types of jobs in his youth and was involved in several ventures. Ralph’s Hardwood Floors is the result of his lifelong focus on identifying opportunities. When a leading hardwood floor company left the local market, Dad saw a demand for a service he knew he could supply.

Dad is also like Col. Sanders in that he never lost his drive, even in his later years. Although the roots of KFC go back to Sanders’ roadside stand during the Depression, it wasn’t until he was “retired” from the restaurant business in 1952 that he began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken, realizing there was a lack of good fried chicken restaurants across the country. After Dad “retired” from Ralph’s, he still couldn’t resist trying to fill a market need he saw, and he began selling portable infrared heaters.

That spirit lives on in Ralph’s today, inspired by Dad’s example. Whether it relates to appearance, performance, or customer service, we’re always trying to figure out what our customers need and how we can give it to them.

As Dad and Col. Sanders clearly demonstrated, that mindset leads to business success—and to happy customers!


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials

 Photo courtesy of CanonFire09



Tags: about Ralph's

What’s your dream floor?

Posted on Sat, May 16, 2015 @ 09:05 AM


A couple visiting the Ralph’s showroom recently asked me, “What type of hardwood floors would you put in your own home if you were getting new flooring.”

I could tell what they were thinking: “This guy’s a hardwood floor expert; if a certain type of flooring would be good enough for his dream floor, it’s good enough for us.”

This is actually a question I get ever so often, and my reply is always the same: “My answer is irrelevant.”

Yes, as someone who’s worked with hardwood flooring all my life, I have technical insight that most people don’t have—and that’s insight I gladly share. But my choice of a dream floor would be based entirely on personal taste, and my taste has no more validity than someone who’s never even thought about hardwood flooring before.

Everybody’s dream floor is different. That’s why I told these curious homeowners: “It doesn’t matter what my dream floor is—what matters is what yours is.”

There are so many possibilities with hardwood flooring, no one needs to worry about copying someone else’s dream. Species, color, grain, texture, sheen, size—we can customize all of these variables and more so that your unique dream comes to life.

Of course, we’ll offer our expert advice about what works best for certain rooms, decorative styles, etc., as well as what doesn’t. But we know from experience that it’s best to help homeowners decide on their dream floors but to never push them into a certain look—even with such a simple statement as, “This is what I’d put in my home.”

So I started showing this couple around the showroom, where they could see, feel, and walk on more than 4,000 square feet of hardwood flooring samples in real-life home settings. They compared species and the other variables, and we gave them samples to take home. We also gave them our free Idea Book.

When they returned the next week, they weren’t asking about my dream floor anymore because they had their own dream floor in their head. They had been doing what we were hoping they would do—envisioning the look that was just right for them. At that point, we were able to put our expertise to work to make that floor become a reality.

It wasn’t my dream or Ralph’s dream; it was their dream. We were just privileged to be a part of making it come true.

Ralph's Idea Book



Photo courtesy of jill allyn stafford




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

Latest Posts