Meridian Star

Local News

October 30, 2011

Business offers goods made solely in America

MERIDIAN —     A short time after getting out of the military, Ron Gilstrap was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in his losing his right leg.

    A few years later Gilstrap told friends he was going to learn to water ski. His friends all told him he can't water ski on one leg.

    Never, ever tell Ron Gilstrap he can't do something.

    Six years later, Gilstrap was featured on the popular TV show "That's Incredible" not only water skiing, but doing it barefoot, on one leg!

    Fast forward 40 years.

    Gilstrap buys a floundering flooring business in Meridian. The first thing he does is eliminate all his foreign made stock and goes to handling strictly American made products.

    When he informs his industry friends and colleagues of his business move, they tell him he can't do that.

    Need we repeat ourselves?

    "When I made the decision to do this I ended up throwing away about 20 percent of my stock," says Gilstrap, now 63. "I know it is a risk but it is one I am committed to because I want to showcase American made products produced by Americans. I want to keep America working."

    Ron's Better Flooring, located at 2217 Highway 45 North across from the Coca-Cola plant leading out of Meridian to Marion, handles ceramic, carpet, VCT, hardwood laminate, exotic wood and cork and bamboo flooring products. Gilstrap, a Wisconsin native who has been in the flooring business for more than 30 years, says although business isn't booming, it is catching on.

    "I bought this business in January of this year and opened the doors with eight bucks in my pocket," says Gilstrap. "Now I have more than eight bucks. Not much more but better than before."

    Gilstrap was asked about the impact of the economy on his business to which he just said: "Humph!"

    "The recession and the price of doing business is just something other people use as excuses to fail," Gilstrap says. "You have to be in business to succeed otherwise why are you in business? You have to find ways to succeed."

    Gilstrap was having a hard time finding a cheap way of getting his flooring products to Meridian. Shipping by big rig was eating him alive so he inquired to one of his suppliers about railroad delivery. He found out this particular supplier didn't have access to rail so Gilstrap goes outside the box.

    "I asked the guy who the lowest paid employee was," says Gilstrap. "He puts the teenager who sweeps the floors on the phone. I ask the kid if he wants to make an extra $50 bucks and the kid is all excited."

    Gilstrap arranges for the teenager to load up the pallet he needs, drive it to the rail yard and have it shipped by train saving Gilstrap hundreds of dollars in shipping costs. Gilstrap just smiles at the recollection.

    Another way Gilstrap does business is by backing his products for life. This is an industry risk most people would say but Gilstrap has a matter-of-fact approach in all his dealings.

    "If you do the job right the first time then you don't have to worry about going back, now do you?" Gilstrap reasons.    

    By going solely American, Gilstrap says his prices did rise a little but he also says the products are much better. He says the quality of the products and the work is what he hopes brings in the customers.

    "Dealing with someone local rather than in China is a strong selling point for us," Gilstrap says.

    The driving force for Gilstrap in turning to only American made products is his deep patriotism for his country. He wants to reward the American worker for their commitment to making fine products.

    "It's my way of giving back to this country and the working people who have made it what it is today," Gilstrap says with deep satisfaction. "I'm proud to be an American and I think all of the people in this nation should do this because we still make the best products in the world."

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