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Alan Greenberg: 1943-2007

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Alan Greenberg, co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners, died of cancer Aug. 28 at the age of 64. He leaves behind a legacy of friendship, dedication and service at the nation’s fifth largest home improvement company.

Before CCA Global grew to a $10.2 billion company, and CCA grew to oversee 3,600 domestic and international retailers, there was one store in one city right in the heart of the United States.

“Growing up, we would always go to play in the store, or work in the store as we got older,” said Tod Greenberg of his father’s orginal store, Tile Town/Carpet City in St. Louis. “He always had some work for us to do when we were old enough to work. I worked in the office, did installation, worked in the warehouse. He made sure it was always real work—it was important to him.”

Tod Greenberg now is a vp at CCA Global, working on information technology initiatives. It had not been his initial plan to go into his father’s business, but as CCA Global expanded and grew on the Internet side, he decided to leave a consulting job in Chicago and come back home to Missouri.

“I think we have such good leadership,” he said. “You know, he didn’t do anything alone. I think the key initiatives that were really important to him—building supplier relationships, communicating across the companies—will continue growing.”

Alan Greenberg’s co-pilot in the flooring business has been Howard Brodsky, who will continue on as the sole CEO of the flooring conglomerate, overseeing its 15 affiliated companies.

Brodsky said that for the past 24 years the pair were in business together, they spoke on the phone almost every day. He said he counted Greenberg’s death as a great personal loss, as well as a blow to the industry.

“We had an immediate bond with each other,” Brodsky said. “It was really never work for either of us. It was a labor of love. It was exciting to do this with someone who was your best friend.”

Brodsky said that as business partners, they shared a passion for building businesses and helping small retailers, particularly in the floor covering arena, but also in lighting, biking, lending services and the other trades in which CCA has held interests. As friends, the pair traveled the world for their business and fostered shared interests and friendly rivalries.

“He was a big Cardinals fan and I’m a big Red Sox fan,” explained Brodsky, who works out of CCA’s Manchester, N.H., office near Boston. “It was ironic because he was a big Rams fan, too, and they played (the Patriots in 2002). The final bet on the World Series was that he’d have to go out in St. Louis and hold up a sign saying that he was a Red Sox fan.”

And did he?

“He said he did, but nobody ever saw it,” Brodsky said with a laugh.

Greenberg’s accomplishments in the floor covering world are plentiful. He joined Tile Town/Carpet City in 1968 and helped grow the dealer into a $20 million business. In 1974, he started his own four-store chain called Sun Carpet, also in St. Louis. He had served as president and chairman of the Retail Floorcovering Institute and was named wholesale and distribution Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999. Greenberg has been the vice chairman of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, and earlier this year was awarded the FCIF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Business was not all business for Greenberg. An avid golfer, he helped establish a charity golf tournament held annually by the FCIF that has raised $500,000 for floor covering industry initiatives. That tournament, set to take place this month, will be named after Greenberg henceforth, Brodsky said.

Greenberg was known for his quick wit and a diverse set of interests. He once served as an assistant sheriff in the St. Louis suburb of Westwood, and he held a seat on the Westwood Country Club Finance Committee. He was a member of the board of directors for the Jewish Center for the Aged.

Greenberg was married to his wife, Sharon, for 41 years. The couple met in the third grade, and they were close friends from childhood. He also leaves behind his son Tod Greenberg; daughter-in-law Stefanie Greenberg; daughter Darcy Glidewell and son-in-law Dan Glidewell; and grandaughters Natalie Glidewell, Emma Greenberg and Abby Greenberg.

A testament to his legacy, Greenberg’s family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation. Brodsky said Greenberg’s lifelong commitment to floor covering retailers, employees and the business as a whole will be continued as CCA moves into the future.

“Alan was a person of great integrity and warmth and was a true visionary,” Brodsky said. “It is rare in life for a person to live his dream, and Alan and I were able to live our dream together.”

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The return of a market

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Diego Two relatively optimistic housing market forecasts factored heavily in an active day of seminars and award presentations at the ProDealer Conference held here last week.

In the conference’s kickoff presentation, Joshua Rosenbaum, director of the UBS Global Industrial Group, explained that only a matter of time stood between the current housing problems and a return to normalcy. “It really is a question of when, not if,” he said.

Of the six key macroeconomic factors — described as “pillars” — of the housing industry, five remain solid: GDP growth, interest rates, unemployment, inflation and non-residential construction spending. Housing starts, the sixth pillar, lags dramatically from 2006.

The question of “when” the return would come was addressed in detail at a later presentation on commodity pricing given by Paul Jannke, senior vp-wood and timber information for RISI. He pointed to research that predicts housing starts will remain weak until late 2008. Pointing to underlying demand created by population growth and household formation, Jannke described the overbuilding of 2003, 2004 and 2005 as a key cause of the dramatic decline in housing starts in 2007. The good news, said Jannke, is that 2009 should see starts jump back to the 1.7 million to 1.8 million level, following a 2008 housing start figure in excess of 1.5 million.

“With the weaknesses forecast in 2007 and 2008, we will have completely made up for the overbuilding” of the previous four years, he said.

If housing starts fall further to the 1 million level, as some expect, the silver lining would be a faster correction and a faster return to housing starts more in line with the underlying demand, he added.

The 11th ProDealer Conference held here at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort wasn’t all about forecasting and finance. A “Custom Builder Panel” on Thursday morning focused on the needs of custom builders and their expectations from pro dealers.

The best way to build a relationship with the custom builder is to do the research and bring solutions to the table, said David Payne, vp-Payne & Payne Builders. Sometimes, the solutions for builders address problems that they didn’t know they had, he said. “The smartest thing for a dealer is to find the time to talk to us to identify our faults, then provide solutions.”

And the panel agreed that when the relationship between the dealer and the builder loses the qualities of a partnership, the relationship is in jeopardy.

In addition, Basketball star Bill Walton, who rose to fame playing for the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trail Blazers, gave some advice on what to do “when the ball bounces the wrong way” during his Sept. 19 talk. He also reminisced about his days at Dixieline Lumber in San Diego, where the 15-year-old freckled redhead unloaded lumber as a part-time job.

Also at the conference, the annual ProDealer of the Year Awards Dinner recognized two companies that represent innovation and success in the LBM market — Kent, Ohio-based Carter Lumber and Fairfax, Calif-based Fairfax  Lumber & Hardware, the respective recipients of the ProDealer of the Year and Independent ProDealer of the Year awards.

The 11th Annual ProDealer Conference, sponsored by Home Channel News, kicked off with a City of Hope golf tournament. The first place team, winning with a score of 142, was Bruce Brushwood of Moulding & Millwork, Mark Donovan of Forest City Trading Group, Laura Dwyer of Dupont and Mike Fletcher of Moulding & Millwork.

The ProDealer Conference ran through Sept. 21.

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Toro names new member to board of directors

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Outdoor products company Toro has named Inge Thulin, vp-international operations for 3M, to its board of directors.

Thulin joined 3M in 1979 and served in various sales and marketing roles at its location in Stockholm, Sweden. He subsequently served as area vp for Europe, Asia and the Middle East and was named executive vp-international operations in 2003.

“As Toro’s revenue from non-U.S. markets continues to rise and we expand our manufacturing, design and distribution capabilities around the world, his perspectives will be invaluable in positioning the company for long-term growth and profitability,” said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO of Toro.

Thulin’s appointment brings the Toro board to 11 members.

Toro had sales of $1.8 billion in 2006 and is a leading provider of outdoor beautification products.

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