A family-owned floorcoverings business is in new hands this year, freeing its biggest booster to take his knowledge and experience nationwide.
Tom Jennings is poised to expand his work as a trainer and consultant for Carpet One, now that he has sold his business - Bud Jennings Carpet One - to Weber Carpet Inc. of Lenexa.
With the purchase of the Lawrence business and its real estate along South Iowa Street, Weber Carpet is expanding outside the Kansas City metro area for the first time. Weber's other locations are in Lenexa, North Kansas City and Lee's Summit, Mo.
"From a geographic standpoint, it makes sense," said Brett Bales, general manager for Weber. "Tom and Bud built a nice middle- to upper-end business there, and that's something we've specialized in here."
Bud Jennings opened the business in 1962, at the downtown corner that is now home to Wheatfields at Ninth and Vermont streets. Bud Jennings had been handling floorcoverings since 1951, when he worked at Weaver's Department Store, managing the home furnishings department.
In 1977 Bud Jennings moved the business - then known as Bud Jennings Carpet and Draperies - to its home at 2851 Iowa, a 13,000-square-foot building with a showroom and plenty of storage space. The draperies portion of the business was sold that year to Jane Bateman, whose Jane Bateman: The Interiors Store remains in a building across the parking lot, at 2101 W. 28th Terrace.
Weber Carpet now owns both buildings, along with the business that Bud Jennings had encouraged one of his sons to get involved with at age 10.
"I literally grew up in the business," said Tom Jennings, now 54. "People ask me how long I've worked there, and I say I can't remember."
But now that he no longer will be responsible for the day-to-day tasks that go along with owning a business, Tom Jennings plans to take a few months off and then get back to work - this time doing what he says he does best: teaching.
He plans to add to his training work on behalf of Carpet One and involving the World Floor Covering Association, the 3,500-member trade group that he's served as chairman and president.
"It's sharing a lifetime worth of advice with others who are green and growing," he said. "You're either green and growing or ripe and rotting, so I'm looking forward to this."
He also said he was pleased to be able to find a buyer for his business that adhered to many of the same values established by his father and carried on by his two dozen employees - all of whom were offered opportunities to stay on with Weber. Nearly 20 installers and salespeople accepted.