Ron Swarthout Earns GBA Lifetime Achievement Award
The Georgetown Business Association will honor Ron Swarthout, longtime proprietor of Georgetown Floorcoverings, the durable business which he ran from 1967 to 2012, and which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
At its June 18 Leadership Luncheon at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place, the GBA will present Swarthout with its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Georgetown Floorcoverings has been one of those institutions in our city and village which practically defines the idea of several terms that are bandied about casually—“mom and pop store,” “family business,” “business business” “and “hard work and service.”
“That’s one of the things about our business,” said Swarthout, who lives in Spotsylvania, Va. “We don’t just have a product. It’s all about helping people, doing a professional job. We install as well as sell. It’s about being proud of how you do the work and gaining people’s trust. ”
Small businesses and family businesses are a dying breed in America’s economy, but Georgetown Floorcoverings is the essence of a family business. Swarthout’s father Herbert started the business in 1954 in a small space at 1417 28th Street, NW, with a warehouse in the basement. Herbert Swarthout started out in flooring by working as an installer, which served him well in his own business. He enlisted his son in his teens to work as a helper to the carpet mechanics for 50 cents an hour.
It took a while—a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1960s, and working with Western Electric for two years—but Ron Swarthout got in the family business in the 1960s, down at 3233 K St., NW, where his father had moved the store, and managed the store after his father’s retirement in 1979, before buying the business when his father passed away in 1979.
Swarthout was a visible part of the business community, with friends like Brad Altman, who ran Altman Parking and with whom he lunched regularly at Chadwick’s on K Street. The industrial atmosphere on the street had changed over the years. So, he moved the warehouse to R Street, SW, where it remains to this day.
“There have been changes,” he said. “You can’t get any parking anywhere, including K Street, for one thing. I guess that’s true all over the city. I think it’s probably harder for small businesses today, than it was when my father started.”
Swarthout made his wife Judy a half-partner in the business because he said he believed in sharing everything in their life. He has a son, Warren, who’s with the Fairfax County Fire Department, Marci, who’s a child psychologist and teacher and another daughter, Karen Swarthout Ori, who purchased and runs the business -- and is GBA treasurer.
Swarthout remains active in the day-to-day operation of the business doing billing and accounting and drops by the office and Georgetown at least “once a week.”