Outer East Portland’s Classique Floors celebrates 35 years

While almost everyone knows this business’s current owner – learn about the past of a customer-service-oriented, locally-owned business, as told by its founders …

At its official 35th Anniversary celebration, Judith Huck celebrates at Classique Floors with the founders – who are also her parents – Lionel and Betty Walklate.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because of her service as a founding member of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, and her volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity – many folks in Portland know personally the current owner of Classique Floors on SE Stark Street – Judith Huck.

But, it was her parents, Lionel and Betty Walklate, who started the business in 1977.

After posing for a photo during the company’s official 35th Anniversary Celebration in early March, Judith went back to helping a customer, leaving her dad and mom to fill us in on how the business came to be.

“In England, I had my own business in floor covering,” Lionel began. “The family, including Judith, of course, came the United States in 1967.”

Long-time employee Annette Idler spins the “Wheel of Fortune” for the guests visiting during the store’s anniversary celebration.

They moved to this country, “Basically just to see what it was like,” he continued. “We decided to ‘give it a chance’ for four years.  We were in good shape in England, living in a house we’d built in 1958, with a couple of cars. But we thought we might do better somewhere else.”

Because his sister already lived in the Portland area, this seemed to be a likely place to settle, Lionel continued.

After working for a decade for others, “We decided to try our hand at our own business in 1977.”

The business started off well, but when the recession of the 1980s hit, “It went downhill real quick. We didn’t eat much for a couple of months,” he said with a laugh.

“Oh, don’t believe that!” Betty interjected “It wasn’t that bad!”

“We kept working at it,” Lionel continued, “and things got better and better.”

The couple, who have been married for 57 ½ years, agreed that providing high quality customer service is what set them apart from other flooring and counter-top retailers.

“Customer service has to be ‘number one’. You’ll have to look after your customers if you want them to look after you. If you do a good job, they’ll come back – and they’ll tell their friends.”

Her parents say that it’s because their daughter, Judith Huck – seen here showing samples to a customer, learned the value of excellent customer service, the business has continued to grow.

Judith having grown up around the business, Betty said, it took a while for her to decide to step up and run the family business. “But, since she decided that she would take it over, she’s done a lot better building the business than I would’ve ever done,” her dad said proudly.

“Now there’s a beautiful showroom, and Judith is very particular to see that the jobs are done correctly,” her mom added. “If there are any little problems, she will take care of them right away.”

Congratulations, then, to Classique Floors – as they enter their 35th year of business. They’re located at 14127 SE Stark Street. Call (503) 255-6775, or see their website for more information: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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