Husband and Wife Team Growing The Carpet Store in Southwest Iowa

Six years ago when Matt Riley got laid off from his position as a sheet metal worker he had no idea what was next.  For the next year Matt worked in Omaha, commuting from Ogden, an almost 150-mile, one-way commute.  He also completed a number of successful real estate ventures, which led to the development of a real estate holding company.  It wasn't until 2007, however, when Matt really found out what was next. 

Matt was doing some work on a rental house he owned in Massena.  An employee ran to The Carpet Store in Corning for supplies.  The owner of The Carpet Store at that time took Matt's information off of the truck the employee was driving.  Later, the owner called and asked Matt if he would have any interest in purchasing the business, which included the Corning store and a warehouse.


Matt agreed to the purchase, and he and his wife, Denise, quickly plunged into the floor covering business.  Denise quit the job she'd held for approximately 10 years at Principal Financial Group in Des Moines and the couple moved to Corning to focus on the store. 

At first, the Rileys were completing a balancing act--struggling to keep track of their new venture and grappling with financial issues.  When they acquired the business, the store was there physically, but as far as a business plan or computer system to keep track of everything, those essentials were pretty much non-existent. 

In 2008, Matt and Denise attended a workshop sponsored by the Corning Chamber of Commerce.  The presenter was Dave McLaren, SBDC regional director, from the Creston office located at Southwestern Community College (SWCC).  Following the presentation, Matt caught McLaren and told him the issues they were facing as new business owners.  McLaren said, "I'll be over to help."

According to Matt and Denise, from that point on "you couldn't put a price on what Dave did."

McLaren helped the Rileys write a business plan, develop standard operating procedures (SOPs), and work through benchmarks for competitive pricing.  Prior to working with McLaren, the business operated off of Excel spreadsheets, which according to Matt had become a logistical nightmare.  With McLaren's direction, they purchased flooring specific software to help with the accounting and payroll aspects of the company.

McLaren also introduced them to Brandi Shay with the Smart Business Resource Program, a collaborative effort of Southwestern Community College's (SWCC) business & accounting department, the Small Business Development Center, SWCC's adult and continuing education department, and distance education.  The Smart Business Resource Program is partially funded by USDA Rural Development.

The Rileys state Shay was a huge asset to their business.  She came to the Carpet Store four or five Saturdays to meet with the Rileys and assist them with tasks that have provided much more organization for their business and helped them attain financial accountability. 

"We didn't even realize how much we had (until working with McLaren and Shay)," Matt said.

Matt explained the company has seen exponential growth during the past year or two-approximately 300 percent growth in 2009.

Today Matt and Denise are entrepreneurs, operating a growing business from a small town in southwest Iowa.  They have eight employees and have expanded their business to include stores in Clarinda and Red Oak, as well as a wholesale store on the Web.  Matt explained they strive to keep the store size down to control overhead and to operate as a "more local, service-oriented store."

Currently The Carpet Store has just shy of 50,000 suggestions in their product catalog.  They have expanded their products to meet the needs of their customers.  Their inventory now includes the following: 

  • Carpet
  • Vinyl
  • Hardwoods
  • Laminate
  • Ceramic Tile
  • Kitchen Design & Cabinetry
  • Area Rugs
  • Home d├ęcor
  • Window treatments
  • Bedding
  • Jewelry

Matt and Denise stated they will continue to expand as they see needs arise.  Matt explained their business philosophy is to strive to keep business local to keep the town square alive and keep people from having to drive to the city.  They're involved in the Corning community and see that involvement as necessary for the success of the small town business.

McLaren still checks in at The Carpet Store from time to time.  Matt said it's fun for him to come visit so they can show him the growth and changes at the store.  Matt summarized their experience with the SBDC by saying, "Most people don't know what he (McLaren) does for southwest Iowa . . . until you experience what we experienced."

The Carpet Store, 709 Davis Avenue, Corning, IA  50841