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For nearly two decades, Robert and Julie Peoples have become experts to trust when it comes to new flooring in Austin.

After nearly 20 years in the business, Robert and Julie Peoples know just about everything there is to know about the things that wind up under your feet.

The two became the faces and personalities behind the Austin branch of Floor Companies International for 19 years, a mobile franchise company they operated out of their Westlake home with the help of a super-sample-equipped van. They made a name for themselves meeting with customers in their homes, helping them choose flooring and financing the work.

In March, the Peoples decided to make a break for it. They left the franchise operation and opened their own independent local business, Peoples Signature Flooring. With two decades of experience under their belts working closely with customers through every step of flooring choice and installation, the couple seems well positioned to expand their services and widen their products. Opening a business of their own allows them to respond more personally to their individual customers, and it takes away some of the restrictions of operating under a set of franchise rules, Robert said.

“The big thing is the product,” he said. “We’ve added cork lines and new hardwood lines. It’s important that we understand our customers and be able to give them what they really want. We wanted to take the positives that we have built our business on over the years and make it better.”

The Peoples have seen a lot of changes in what people expect out of their floors in the time they’ve been around. Because there are more choices and options, installations are becoming more sophisticated.

“Now people want something very unique and very specific to their personality,” Robert said. “They will put that down and then put something completely different down next to it.”

What exactly are people putting under their feet these days?

“Hardwood, hardwood, hardwood,” Julie said. “The new aesthetic in hardwood is old, worn and warm. That comes with a great hidden benefit – it shows wear and tear less.”

The Peoples have become such well-known and trusted experts in the flooring business in Austin, they were asked to appear in three television shows with celebrity designer and home stager Roger Hazard. Their last project was a huge wood floor installation that had the couple and their installers pulling an all-nighter under tense conditions to meet deadlines.

“It was fun, but we are not television people,” Robert said. “We were happy to get away from all the cameras and lights and back to our day job.”

Helping people decide to replace their floors and what to replace them with can be stressful enough.

“We know what people are about to go through when we meet them,” Julie said. “There’s a lot of anxiety when you come into someone’s home and tear it up to make it pretty. We help them become just excited about the project and how it is going to look in the end as we are. We are pretty passionate about what we do. That helps.”

One of the reasons the Peoples decided to open a company on their own is that they wanted to continue to be able to take their business to their customer’s homes instead of requiring their customers to drive across town with pieces of their couch and wallpaper in tow.

“Being mobile is so much more efficient and more relaxing for everybody,” Robert said. “Our van is completely decked out with all our flooring samples. We want to get a feel for our customers and what they want and where they are headed. We can look at hundreds of samples in their lighting, next to their furniture and across from their other rooms. It’s just a much better way of doing things.”

Robert was worried that customers might have a hard time finding them when they changed companies and company names, but it hasn’t been a problem.

“We’re all about relationships,” he said. “It turns out it’s our name people have remembered.”

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