You can’t really talk about the soon to be 20-year legacy of Floor Covering Installer without talking about the more than 50-year legacy of our late co-founder, Howard Olansky (1928-2006). It was his industry expertise and vision that turned the then-novel concept of creating a magazine geared directly to installers and contractors into a reality.
COUNTDOWN TO 20 YEARS:
Hats Off to Howard
In early 2006, reflecting on 50 years in the industry, he wrote, “It is impossible to list all of the products, events and people that impacted all of us. Keep in mind that the industry has achieved greatness because of the huge number of people in all facets. It is a combination of movers and shakers who have gained prominence, and the grassroots men and women in retailing, contracting, distributing, installation, manufacturing and floor care/restoration that propelled the industry to mind-boggling heights during the past 50 years. It is the same combination that will propel the industry to heights far beyond its fondest hopes during the coming years.”
Howard entered the floor covering industry in earnest in 1955, when he was named managing editor of the then three-year-old Western Floors by founder Steve Brody. Prior to that post, he began his journalism career with California Real Estate Journal after serving in the U.S. Navy, focusing on communications while stationed in San Diego during the Korean War.
When Steve died in 1964, Howard ascended to the role of publisher. A year later, he sold a 50 percent stake in the company to longtime friend Harold Arkoff. With Harold as partner and co-publisher, Specialist Publications would go on to launch Eastern Floors (which would later merge with Western Floors to become National Floor Trends, the present-day Floor Trends), as well as ICS Cleaning Specialist and, of course, Floor Covering Installer.
Howard and Harold sold the company to Business News Publishing (now BNP Media) in 1997, where Howard served as senior editor of the publications until his death. He was a charismatic speaker and forceful presence, long active on industry task forces and committees, and witness to the birth of the Western Floor Covering Association (which merged with the American Floorcovering Association to become the World Floor Covering Association), the Carpet Manufacturers Association of the West (now part of the Carpet and Rug Institute), the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) and the Floor Installation Association of North America (FIANA), to name a few. He was also there at the launch of the Surfaces trade show, among other big industry firsts.
Through his advocacy in the pages of these magazines, Howard helped open up the installation of wood floors to the floor covering industry, helped popularize the term “installer” instead of “mechanic” for the profession, and pushed the retail side of the industry to focus on fashion instead of price.Howard had a laundry list of awards and designations befitting his five decades in the industry, including induction into the WFCA Hall of Fame and Disaster Restoration Hall of Fame, the FIANA Lifetime Achievement Award, Tri-State Cleaners Association’s John Mauceuri Award, Midwest Association of Cleaning Professionals Pathfinders Award, Carpet Manufacturers Association of the West Distinguished Service Award, first recipient of the WFCA Distinguished Service Award, Dallas Trade Mart Award, Southern California Floor Covering Association Silver Trumpet Award, Honorary Member of the FCICA, and recipient of the Industry Connections Award.
On a personal note. Howard was a short guy – this, and the fact that he loved Trader Joe’s “Two-Buck Chuck” wine, was brought up again and again at a roast in his honor at Surfaces 2006 that drew 110 people.
I, on the other hand, am 6’10”. You can imagine how much Howard loved to point this fact out. (Answer: Almost always.)
Before moving back to my home state of New Hampshire in 2007, I worked for nearly five years at the old office in Woodland Hills, Calif. (which is no longer there.) Howard was a frequent visitor to the office. This was a man well into his 70s, with a loving family, still making visits to the office to see what people were working on and to catch up with his industry colleagues. A man who didn’t understand the term “retirement” as most of us see it – that was Howard.
Now, I love this industry. I love writing about it, I love seeing what’s new at shows, and I love seeing faces both familiar and new. But Howard loved the industry. He was deeply enmeshed in its gears, an advocate and a champion of what the floor covering industry could accomplish, from the beginning of his career to the very end of his life.
Back in New England, far away from California and the formative part of my career with BNP Media, I still sometimes pause to think about Howard. His voice coming down the hallway toward my office as he gruffly uttered his usual words of “The experts have eggs of their faces again” whenever something he knew, down to his bones, was right about the industry despite what the experts said (and almost always, he was right).
I wonder what he would think that his brainchild FCI has almost made it to drinking age. He would probably smile inwardly, at least for a moment, then go back to work. After all, there are still calls to make, stories to write, and new connections to find in this industry he so cherished.