Jordan Parker remembers precisely – very precisely – when and where he decided what to do with his life.
"I remember being in an accounting class my sophomore year at Appalachian State [University]," he recalls. "I turned to a friend of mine and said, out loud, 'I know what I'm going to do next, and it's going to be in the carpet business.'"
Parker was as good as his word. He launched Direct Flooring just off Rossville Boulevard in 2004, and recently opened its doors to the public.
"It's gone incredibly well," he says. "The community's been incredibly supportive."
The decision Parker announced in his accounting class didn't exactly come from left field. He started working at age 10 at an East Ridge carpet store owned by his grandfather, Barney Solomon.
"I got a buck an hour," Parker recalls. "[Solomon] got pretty big during the pioneering days of carpet in the 1950s and 1960s. He had a pretty large operation in Dalton, then opened a few retail stores in Chattanooga.
"Carpet is in my blood," Parker says. "I knew from a young age that I was an entrepreneur at heart."
Shortly after the last of his grandfather's stores had closed, Parker opened Direct Flooring with an eye toward selling to builders, remodelers and real-estate investors.
"The idea was to keep the overhead extremely low, cut expenses and pass on those savings," he says. "We also developed multiple crews of installers, and we've had three of those crews since the beginning – that's unusual in this business."
* Address: 4707 English Ave.
* Opened: 2004
* Online: parkersdirectflooring.com
* Employees: 14
Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker decided to start work toward adding an open-to-the-public retail operation and area rugs to his product offerings.
"We started modifying the building a year ago," he says. "It was a heavy risk – a lot of investment in an uncertain time. A lot of that was based on my intuition, but I felt we were making the right moves."
Parker says Direct Flooring struggled at times during the pandemic, but managed to weather the worst. By January, he adds, "things started looking a lot brighter."
"Real estate is booming now, but I've been through this cycle before – we know we won't always be this busy. We're working hard to get as much done as we can."
Parker cites two particular reasons for adding a retail aspect to his business. One is his mission to make the area where Direct Flooring is located, just off Rossville Boulevard, more of a "destination." He supports the Boulevard Project, a group dedicated to revitalization of the area, by donating a percentage of weekend rug sales, Parker says.
"We wanted to broaden our community impact by seeing and meeting more people," he says. "People appreciate that we're doing a family-friendly retail business, and we're humbled by that."
And Parker looks forward to seeing whether history might repeat itself. Just as he spent lots of time at one of his grandfather's stores, so do his kids, 11-year-old Lilah and Aaron, 9, at Direct Flooring.
"They're very different," Parker says. "There's something about the mechanics of making a deal work, start to finish, that my son enjoys. My daughter really enjoys the aesthetic – marketing, how things look. She's constantly giving me feedback.
"But one reason I wanted to get into an open-to-the-public operation is that I wanted them to see how a good, family-friendly retail operation can be a wonderful service to a community," Parker says.