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Dad, son team to open floor covering store

Even when Alan Freier was working his 260-acre farm, he was installing floors.

Floor installers are common in Freier's family, so for the Ellsworth native to take up the occupation was almost inevitable. The 1979 EHS grad stopped farming after 10 years and his son, Chace, had started working with him on flooring jobs during summers.

Now, the father and son are co-owners of Freier's Floor Covering, a new store in the Village Shopping Center in Ellsworth's midway. The location was to open for business this past weekend.

"It's our first attempt at a storefront," the elder Freier said Thursday, noting he expects to spend most of his time at job sites while his son handles decisions inside the store.

The approximately 4,000 square foot outlet will stock materials ranging from carpet to vinyl, laminates, wood and ceramic, as well as natural stone, the younger Freier said. Two of the top four flooring brands--Mohawk and Shaw--will be represented, as will Quick Step for laminates and a wide variety of tile brands. There will be a lot of selection and mill-direct items will dominate.

"I designed this for the standard 'nuclear family'," he said, intending to appeal to all ages.

Toward that end, a kids' care center in the form of a play room has been incorporated, plus a home theatre room complete with big-screen TV and mini-refrigerator is adjacent. He said husbands and children can keep occupied there while wives browse the displays and shop.

Dorene Place will be responsible for the showroom operations, hired after having managed an interiors enterprise for 25 years, his dad said. She'll be joined by wife and daughter-in-law Shannon, who brings retail sales experience from employment at United Hospital in the Twin Cities.

The son is a middle child with an older brother, Isaac, a home builder, and a younger sister, Annie. He said he'd helped on flooring projects since age 12. At age 18, he began his own installation company.

"He got a summer job and learned a trade," his dad said.

The Freiers have done all kinds of residential floors, big and small, new construction and existing, he said. Typically, they go look at a job and measure it, then the owner comes to them to pick out the desired products. They provide estimates to meet customers' specifications; prices reflect the degree of skill required and many efforts can be finished in a day, depending on size. A crew of up to 10 subcontractors in their employ varies based on how busy they are and draws from family.

The son eventually decided not to continue in the installation aspect, he said. At age 20, he was already looking for a place to have a store. Originally, he thought about locating in Hudson, but ultimately felt River Falls would be the biggest market to target, and wanted to stay close to home to serve neighbors and friends. He considered several Ellsworth vacancies before learning about the shopping center availability.

"It was too good an opportunity to pass up," he said, noting it's a newly remodeled part of the former Hinck's supermarket and right on Main Street for good traffic visibility.

Jeff Esterby of the construction firm renovating the center expertly framed in the walls and the father-son team has done the finishing, including painting and, of course, flooring, they said. A demo floor will be featured on the premises.

They've arranged to be dealers for the Hunter-Douglas brand of blinds. The younger co-owner said he envisions expanding into other fixtures in the future, mentioning countertops, cabinets and perhaps furniture.

"We see this being a one-stop home shopping stop," his dad said.

The hours for Freier's Floor Covering will be Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. The store's phone number is 273-4400.