In 1913, E.F. Marburger found himself seated at the lunch counter at a corner drugstore in downtown Indianapolis. The mid-day break from his job in the flooring department at Block’s Department Store would prove fateful in ways young Eli could not have imagined. The druggist, familiar with Eli’s line of work, asked him to measure out a new flooring project for the store. Ever resourceful, Eli rolled up his sleeves and started calculating.
When he returned to Block’s, Eli’s manager was waiting. “He asked my grandfather why he was late returning from lunch,” remembered Ron Marburger, president and CEO of E.F. Marburger Fine Flooring in Fishers. “Granddad described the customer service he’d given the drugstore owner. What came next hit like a ton of bricks,” continued Ron. “The manager said, ‘Mr. Marburger, Block’s is big enough that if anyone wants flooring, they will come to us. You’re fired.’” Ron said his grandfather would later explain that while heading home that day, he realized there was a better way to market flooring: going beyond the store walls.
That was the path taken by the company patriarch, who opened an 800-square-foot flooring store at 1021 North Illinois Street, providing customer service whenever and wherever it was needed. A century later, E.F. Marburger is among Indiana’s premier flooring and home furnishings companies. “I don’t know where I’d be today if my grandfather hadn’t gotten fired – let’s put it that way,” Ron shared. “It was devastating, but we’re German, and Germans have a way of toughing it out.”
Step foot into the Marburger showroom on Allisonville Road and you’re immediately surrounded by beauty – from kitchen and bath concepts to ceramic tile and granite counter tops to carpeting and hardwood flooring. Store designers have created a shopping experience that is equal parts inspiring and, for some people, intimidating. “Sometimes customers think that such high quality must carry a high price tag. That’s a misconception,” said Marburger. “We are very competitive with price because we do a lot of direct buying, and we know what the market will bear.”
His advice? “This is like an art gallery. Enjoy the experience and absorb the beauty. Just come in and look around – there’s no pressure. We want to help you see what can be done in your home without breaking the bank. I don’t care if I don’t sell a dime as long as visitors have a great shopping experience,” declared Marburger.
Fewer than 40 companies in Indiana have reached the 100-years-in-business plateau. Two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the current depressed economic climate have taken their toll, especially on family-owned businesses. “Those [difficult circumstances] are great teachers; they help you manage tough times,” Marburger explained. “Bridging those gaps says something about our company and team.”
Marburger said his business survived with an unwavering commitment to hard work, deep product knowledge, and great customer service. “In our sales meetings, I say that we don’t just want satisfied customers, we want overjoyed customers. A client’s minimum expectation is satisfaction – and it should be. I want a customer that says, ‘Wow, am I glad I shopped at Marburger’s!’”
Ron’s face lights up most when talking about his two daughters and grand-daughter – the fourth and fifth generations of Marburgers now working in the business. “My dream is that maybe my grandchildren’s children can celebrate a 200-year anniversary,” he reflected. “If granddad and dad (Donald) came into the store today they’d say, ‘I’m proud of you.’ I don’t think either could have imagined it would grow and become what it is today. That’s a driving force – that’s why I work hard. It’s an important legacy to be passed on.”