The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Business

October 18, 2008

P.J. Stevens talks about starting carpet business

Determining what P.J. Stevens is most known for is no easy task.

As president commissioner of Cambria County, Stevens meets with thousands throughout the county each year, whether it’s performing his duties as a civil servant or out on the campaign trail.

Others know him as the “1-800-BEST RUG’’ guy; the one who came up with that infectious jingle that at times won’t vacate the mind. He may have even personally laid the carpet in your living room – if it’s old enough.

Stevens founded his flooring specialty business, now known as Carrolltown-based Stevens Carpet One, in 1977 on $2,400 of borrowed money and the desire to not work for someone else. It ended about a decade spent working in automobile sales.

“I was actually doing pretty well at what I was doing, but I wasn’t fulfilled by the work,” Stevens said.

“I sort of knew that I wanted to have my own business; that I wanted more.”

Stevens recounted his experiences to a gathering of about 30 students and other interested attendees last week at Pitt-Johnstown’s Blackington Hall. His talk was part of the Upstarts and Innovators series, sponsored by Johnstown Area Regional Industries, the Greater Johnstown Keystone Innovation Zone and The Tribune-Democrat.

Stevens said the first few years after he established the business, every week was a struggle. The company was a far cry from the five stores and 40 employees it now includes.

In the early years it was just he and his wife, Bunny, as well as his brother, John. During those years, a sunporch and later a garage served as the flooring products showroom and a bad week meant jumbo bologna would be the Sunday meal.

“Those first five years, when it was just Bunny, John and me, it was all about sales and delivery,” Stevens said.

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