Starting a Wood Flooring Business with Peanut Butter

How I started with Wood Floors Stories of Wood Floors

Starting a Wood Flooring Business In Billings, MT

When we moved to Billings, MT from upstate New York no one in our immediate family had ever been west of the Mississippi River as far as I know.

My story is much like in the days of families going west in covered wagons looking for a better life. I did, however, have the advantage of having a 14 foot cube van and Interstate 90.

The mentality of moving west not knowing anyone or knowing what would happen were
much the same.

Our move started one day when I came home rather frustrated.

I am originally from Upstate New York and after living 7 years in Northern Virginia, we moved back to New York State. This day happened after we had been back in New York for about 5 years.

I basically told my wife that I was tired of New York and wanted to try someplace else.

Since we had moved 5 times in Washington my wife was getting rather tired of moving.

She said," OK, but this is the last time. Where do we WANT to live?

That night we literally got a map of the United States out and started a process of elimination.

We didn't want to go back to the Rat Race in Washington D.C.   At least I didn't. 

Florida is nice but a lot of housing is built on concrete slabs so there isn't
a lot of wood flooring work there. California wasn't appealing to either of us.

My wife had always wanted to move West. We started looking at the state of Montana.

What made this interesting and challenging is no one in our immediate family had ever been west of the Mississippi River and we were considering moving to Montana, sight unseen.

We contacted people in Real Estate and anyone else we could think of to give us some information about Montana.  

It finally got to the point where I came to the conclusion that if I didn't just move out soon and take a look myself we probably never would move out to Montana.

I had a 14 foot cube van. I loaded it with all the wood flooring tools and wood I had.

Stocked up on food and cash and my 14 year old son, Matthew and I headed west on I-90.

We laid a packing blanket over the wood and that became our bed for the next 10 weeks.

The cube van was our home, shop, and vehicle.

I drove west till I was too tired to drive anymore and just pulled the truck over and went to sleep.  I did this routine for 4 days.   

I remember the last day we were starting to wonder if there really was any
civilization in Montana.

Undeveloped land extended in all directions as far as the eye could see. We were fighting a headwind which made it often hard to get the truck over 50MPH.

I do remember telling Matthew to get out of the truck just short of the Montana
State line and run to the sign "Welcome to Montana". I told him this way he could
say he ran all the way to Montana. (grin)   I did this with his twin brother, Adam when I brought him out to Montana for the first time.

We got into Billings around 5:00PM so we were just in time for rush hour.

We had no idea where to start exploring Billings so we took the first exit.

We frantically looked for anyplace where I could pull off without hitting someone so we could get our bearings. We ended up at the truck stop in the "heights".

Little did we know this truckstop was to be our home for the next 10 weeks.

After a little exploring we ate dinner and went to sleep. The next day I started making contacts. We actually knew no one in Billings. No Relatives to help us out.

Things didn't take off right away. I remember breaking the last 100 dollar bill of the money we had brought out with us.

We were also running out of food.

It wasn't long before we got down to the quarters and all the food that we had left were three super size jars of peanut butter.

We didn't have any money to go back to New York.

We had to make it....somehow.

Matthew was helping make the decisions.

Do we save the quarters for the phone in case someone does call the answering service or do we go to the thrift store and buy day old bread?

After three weeks of surviving on peanut buttersandwiches (we had no jelly) I finally got a small job putting in a nosing piece of wood for a tile job someone had done.

It was a really small job but we had a little money to spend.

We went to the supermarket and bought 87 cents worth of boloney.

We went back to the truck and had a feast of baloney sandwiches.

Matthew turned to me and said," Dad, I never knew baloney could taste this good!!!"

At that moment after weeks of worrying about surviving I realized that not only was this an adventure my son and I were sharing but he was learning an appreciation for the simple pleasures of life.


I think this picture below might very well be the only picture of our first "Home" in Montana where Matthew and I lived.  Theresa was still living in New York while Matthew and I were trying to get a foothold in Montana.    The van was originally all white but I used spray can paint and painted the top part a light blue.   Then using a stencil and artist's brush I hand lettered the truck with royal blue paint which we used until the engine died.   I think the trip we made OVER the Tetons might have done more damage than I first thought.