"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Founder Garry Sparks proved to be a city visionary

By on June 27, 2018 in Business Profiles with 0 Comments

Wenatchee’s old-timers will recall that Wenatchee Avenue was not always the attractive, inviting downtown shopping district that we enjoy today. It was four busy lanes of traffic and, boy, you better have done well on your parallel parking test because that was the only parking available.

Fast forward to the late ‘80s and city fathers initiated a special project called Streetscape, which turned Wenatchee’s four-lane speedway into a charming shopping destination with only two lanes of traffic, trees, fancy crosswalks and nose-in parking. They had turned Aurora Avenue North into Mayberry RFD.

One of the visionaries responsible for the upgrade was Garry Sparks, owner of the Floor Factory, which has been a fixture in Wenatchee since 1976. He and well-known local businessman Dave Gellatly were big forces behind the downtown improvements — a renovation that eventually earned the city national recognition with the Great America Main Street award.

Sparks and his wife Patti followed up with projects like buying and renovating the Eagle Transfer and Storage Building, while building a local real estate portfolio that now includes the Floor Factory building, the Eagle building and various condos and homes.

Local business leaders saw that he had the touch, so they made him president of the Wenatchee Downtown Association from 1990 to 1992.

But his day job, all along, was running a very successful floor covering store. “I’ve never done anything else,” he admits.

Sparks retired in 2008, turning the keys over to family members — also now owners — who had helped build the business and who each found a niche in the business they really enjoyed. Still involved in the business are his younger brother Jeff, Jeff’s wife, Vicki, and the Sparks’ daughter Robin Crawford. Other family members involved are brother Jay, son Tye and Jeff’s son-in-law, Chad Fasching.

By the time Sparks retired, the Floor Factory was grossing several million dollars, a remarkable feat for any businessman but the interesting thing is that the business was successful almost from Day 1. While his wife Patti worked in local banks to shore up the family income, it wasn’t long before they were able to start making payments to buy the Wenatchee Avenue building where the Floor Factory is located.

Garry didn’t start out with the goal of owning a floor covering business. It was almost by happenstance that he got into it when a college friend that he met at Eastern University helped him get a part-time floor-covering job in Spokane. He ended up working for that company for six years before moving to Wenatchee in 1974 to work at another floor covering company. When that job didn’t work out, Garry and Patti started their own store and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sparks attributes the store’s success to the personal service and knowledge that is evident when customers use the Floor Factory.

The Big Box stores may be a little cheaper, Sparks says, but all they do is offer the customer a list of installers rather than doing the job in-house. Pointing to Floor Factory’s knowledge and expert advice, Sparks says a lot of people find the box stores are “not such a hot deal after all.” Consequently, the Floor Factory does a brisk business both with residential and commercial customers.

Sparks is content to leave the floor business operations to his family members and nowadays he has plenty of time to indulge one of his key passions: travel. Garry rattles off a long list of his travel destinationatoins — three African photo safaris, Europe, Eastern Bloc countries, continents far and wide.

It’s all worthy of a professional travel writer — or at least someone who has made his own imprint on his home town and is now reaping the rewards.

The Floor Factory is located at 13 South Wenatchee Avenue. Phone (509) 662-1421.

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