While real estate brokers may tell you “under all is the land,” smart retailers and shopping center owners know that it's the floor that provides the foundation for their operations.

Flooring plays a big part in today's retailing. Next to store clerks and property managers, it's the fixture that absorbs the most wear on a day-to-day basis in any retail operation. Through the materials used to create it and the various forms it can take, the floor also plays a major role in setting and maintaining an aural and visual atmosphere that is comfortable for customers and conducive to shopping. And yet, most of us ignore it unless it becomes seriously in need of repair.

Not today, though. In this special section, Shopping Center World brings together some leaders in the manufacture and maintenance of flooring for retail facilities. They've agreed to tell us about their latest and best products, and some projects they recently completed. Read on and become informed — and, above all, don't ignore your floor any more.

“A GLOBAL NETWORK”

New York-based Associated/ACC International Ltd. is the largest independent national flooring resource in the country, according to company president and COO Richard Goodman.

Associated pioneered the concept of single-source accountability decades ago, says Goodman. “We provide our clients with one-stop access to a global network of products and a complete collection of services — from sourcing to installation, maintenance to reclamation, technical advice to cutting-edge ideas,” he says. The product side includes everything “from carpet to ceramic, stainless steel to luxury vinyl, safety glass to stone,” Goodman notes, “as well as wood, tile, specialty items and more.”

New products available from Associated include SPIN METAL, “a collection of stainless steel tile that has great possibilities for retail, hospitality, high-tech, and corporate environments,” says Goodman. Used alone or in combination with other materials, this collection is made for floors and walls, he notes.

The first retail customer for this product was Ripley's, a high-end department store chain based in Santiago, Chile, recounts Goodman. “They were looking for a distinctive material to use in the entryway of their stores that would create a different feel than the traditional marble that they had used historically,” he explains. “In addition, the chain was searching for the right flooring to help improve traffic patterns and lead customers from department to department.”

The owner of Ripley's, along with his architectural design firm, decided upon SPIN METAL from Associated, says Goodman. “The design intermixed SPIN METAL with natural stone, and provided for SPIN METAL borders to run alongside other materials to better define the space,” he says. At the same time, “The durability of stainless steel made this product perfect for the entryway,” Goodman notes, “while the flexibility of the surface allowed it to be carried through to other departments off of the entryway, improving traffic to those departments.”

Another product from Associated is FLORGLAZ, slated to be introduced in March 2001. “FLORGLAZ with ChromaFusion® is safety glass tile for the floor,” says Goodman. Available in 27 standard colors and 12 standard patterns, the product presents an almost infinite number of design possibilities, he notes. The product is appropriate for high-end retail, in-store vignettes, hospitality, corporate, even residential uses because of its distinctive appearance and ease of maintenance.

THE LOOK OF WOOL

Based in Dalton, Ga., with showrooms in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles, Durkan Hospitality is the leading producer of patterned carpet in the world, according to Ann Gladden, the company's vice president of sales.

“By creating the look of wool with nylon printed carpet, we opened the doors for custom-patterned carpet in retail stores and shopping malls,” Gladden says.

Durkan offers custom designs, created in-house by a team of designers in conjunction with the retail interior designer or architectural firm, according to Gladden. The company also offers coordinated and pre-colored collections for use in projects where deadlines or budgets don't allow for custom carpet design. “Designers or mall owners can still achieve a custom look with the coordinated collections by choosing their own color scheme.”

Soft surface carpeting such as Durkan carpet has a number of benefits in retail applications, explains Gladden. “These include noise reduction; comfort for shoppers (as opposed to hard surface flooring); and a colorful pattern that will complement a theme.” Now that retail has become a form of entertainment, she adds, “The work Durkan and its design customers have done for Las Vegas hotels and other entertainment venues is being translated into shopping center applications.”

Durkan's new Spectronic jet printing method has dramatically improved artistic capabilities. This, along with the simplicity of producing a custom pattern at an attractive price, were the main criteria behind the decision to carpet about 250,000 sq. ft. of Providence Place Mall, located in downtown Providence, R.I., according to Gladden.

The custom-patterned carpeting is a monumental design component of this upscale mall. Notes designer Livia St. Florian of St. Florian Architects of Providence, the mall architect, “We wanted to have a carpet design that would follow the center's architecture and would create a sense of unity and harmony.”

“Technology has finally caught up with what the market has always wanted,” says David Harrison, director of design at the Commonwealth Development Group, who headed up the Providence Place Mall project. “I saw the Westchester Mall [in New York] and saw how well the [Durkan] carpet has held up there. Plus, the aesthetic options are now available to create anything you want.”

Durkan not only proved it could quickly and easily create a customized pattern, but new digital technologies allow Durkan to print out a custom strike-off of the pattern so customers can actually study a sample instantly and make changes to the designs with minimal effort, according to Harrison. “No one else offered this service,” he adds.

Additionally, Durkan's patterned carpets using the Spectronic method don't have to be pieced together, adds Gladden. “Now they are printed in one run and as one piece, which simplifies installation dramatically — the carpet at Providence Place was installed in less than two weeks,” she notes.

“It's holding up beautifully and I absolutely have no doubts in our choice,” Harrison says. “To put down carpet is much less expensive than other alternatives. Even if we get a six- to eight-year life out of the carpet and then replace it, we are still ahead.”

BLENDING BEAUTY & FUNCTIONALITY

A division of CBC (America) Corp., Commack (Long Island) N.Y.-based TOLI began manufacturing flooring products in 1920 and was introduced to the U.S. market during the 1980s, according to Director of Sales and Marketing Neil Rodden. “TOLI products have dynamically rich visuals replicating natural wood and stone materials,” he says, “and are constructed for commercial use in heavy traffic areas, making them a perfect choice for retail applications.” The luxury vinyl flooring of TOLI International “provides the beauty of stone and wood in environments where natural materials may not be the most functional choice.”

In the new products department, “For the new millennium, TOLI has created exciting new color palettes for the Lightstone and Lightwood product lines,” reports Rodden. The utilitarian look of concrete is available in 17.7-inch * 17.7-inch Lightstone tiles in seven colors, he says. “The new prism collection of 17.7-inch * 17.7-inch Lightstone tiles and 4-inch width Lightwood planks has innovative iridescent colors perfect for retail theme environments,” he says, noting the realism of the new rustic-patterned 7-inch width Lightwood plank.

Since being introduced in 1988, “TOLI Linotesta has created a must-see buzz,” according to Rodden. “A vinyl tile with thru-chip construction, Linotesta has superior indentation resistance, while its slip resistance characteristics make it the perfect choice for heavy traffic areas in public spaces.” A palette of 32 vibrant colors offers “creative capabilities in flooring designs,” he says, while large (17.7-inch * 17.7-inch) tiles install quickly and are easy to maintain.

With the success of Linotesta, TOLI has introduced a second thru-chip tile, Viale. “Viale's shimmering colors are easy to maintain in high traffic areas and offer excellent resistance to cracking and chipping,” Rodden notes.

TOLI Linotesta has been the flooring choice for several retailers, including Erehwon Mountain Outfitters and the great indoors, according to Rodden. TOLI Lightwood planks were recently used in the main walkways and stairs of the 14,000 sq. ft. Buy Buy Baby store in Huntington, N.Y. “TOLI Lightwood planks provides the warm, homestyle look of wood,” says Rodden, “and its construction makes it resilient to the daily foot traffic and shopping carts.”

FILLING THE VOID

Farnham, Quebec-based Domco is a leading manufacturer of resilient flooring in North America. Whitehall, Pa.-based Azrock, its commercial product line, is the second-largest American producer of floor-covering products, according to Domco National Sales Manager Ron Conrod.

“Azrock composition tile and sheet flooring deliver high-quality, cost-efficient products with a wide array of aesthetic choices,” Conrod says, while Azrock commercial flooring “offers a fully integrated product line including slip and static-resistant Vinyl Composition Tile, Luxury Vinyl Tile, inlaid vinyl sheet, Somplan Homogeneous PVC and Linosom linoleum.”

Azrock's new 16-inch by 16-inch Vinyl Enhanced Tile (VET) “follows the trend of the popularity of ceramics,” notes Conrod, “and is ideal for situations where you need to install resilient [flooring] over a large area.” Flexible and durable, featuring thru-chip construction and monolithic in appearance, VET compares favorably with terrazzo floors, he says, “offering the same high-end look at a fraction of the price.”

Linosom linoleum, a natural flooring product comprised of cork, wood, linseed oil and jute, was selected for the high-traffic retail environment at The Factory at Franklin, a 14-building, 300,000 sq. ft. retail/entertainment center in Franklin, Tenn.

“The project architects used Veneto, a Linosom line available in unusually vibrant colors, which has won designers over, time and again,” according to Conrod. “Linosom also served the functional needs of The Factory At Franklin with resilience enough to survive the high-traffic retail environment,” he says, “while its sleek texture and rich color provide a continuous, smooth surface connecting the different elements of The Factory At Franklin without overshadowing them.”

The design team also chose Linosom because of its high performance value. “Linosom's seam-sealed construction makes it impervious to moisture that might be brought in from the outside,” says Conrod.

Linosom is a single-layer linoleum, so the patterns won't wear or fade and its natural composition allows it to act like a second skin for a floor, adds Conrod. “This ‘self-healing’ quality makes it the ideal covering for any high-activity area,” he notes. “Plus, its flexibility makes it easy to install, with less waste.”

ENGINEERED STONE IN ACTION

Check in with Dallas-based Verona Marble Co. for king-sized sections of engineered stone. “These quartz-based slabs have the beauty and durability of natural granite,” according to National Sales Manager Kevin Ramsey, “along with the reliability and consistency of engineered stone.”

The new slab size measures a hefty 55 inches by 120 inches in both 2- and 3-centimeter thicknesses, reports Ramsey. “This new size will now make engineered stone a great choice for bathroom vanities, stair treads, customer service counters, kitchen countertops and bar tops.”

Verona Marble Co. has been the supplier of flooring for a number of regional malls, including Cumberland Mall in Atlanta; Lincolnwood Towne Center in Lincolnwood, Ill.; The Parks Mall in Arlington, Texas; The Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Ariz.; Tyson II Galleria in Alexandria, Va.; and Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, Calif.

According to Ramsey, retailer JCPenney Co. uses Verona's engineered stone for both flooring and wall cladding, utilizing 24-foot by 24-foot Botticino and Rasotica Agglosimplex modules in store entrances throughout the United States. Kohl's Department Stores, meanwhile, began the installation of Marghestone flooring in both new and remodeled stores in 1994. Other individual retail clients for stone flooring from Verona include Dillard's, Boscov's, Things Remembered, The Body Shop and The Bon-Ton.

DECORATIVE CONCRETE CORNER

ARDEX SD-T, a self-leveling concrete topping manufactured by Ardex Inc., comprises the finish floor of the 25,000 sq. ft. common area of the “Bourbon Street” nightclub/entertainment wing of the Mall of West Edmonton, Canada, reports National Account Manager David Fabyonic.

“This product was chosen (by mall owner, Triple Five Group of Cos.) for its unique ability to enhance the ‘Bourbon Street’ theme, by simulating the actual ‘street’ surface running with bars and restaurants on either side,” according to Fabyonic.

The adaptability of ARDEX SD-T has been recognized as a major benefit of the product since it was launched some five years ago, notes Fabyonic.

With this product, “An architect or interior design professional can choose any color and pattern to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece for their property,” Fabyonic explains, “and to utilize design elements such as wood or metal inlays, or stencil work for border patterns or logos.”

ARDEX SD-T has a lot going for it besides its aesthetic qualities, adds Fabyonic. “The leveling properties of the product make it quite functional for a renovation,” he notes. “Self-leveling cements are commonly used to achieve a flat, smooth subfloor in order to properly install a traditional floor covering — and the owner incurs not only the cost of the floor covering itself, but also the cost of renovating the subfloor as required,” Fabyonic explains. But, “With ARDEX SD-T as the finish floor, the owner gets a renovated subfloor and floor covering — all in the same product.”

Ardex Inc. also makes self-leveling Portland cement-based underlayments for subfloor repair. Based in Pittsburgh for 23 years and doing business across North America, the company is owned by Ardex GmbH, a German firm with seven manufacturing plants across Europe and one in Asia.

UNDERLAYMENT & MICROTOPPING

When Factoria Square Mall in Bellevue, Wash., needed to have its floor resurfaced, they went with products manufactured by the MIRACOTE® division of Rancho Dominguez, Calif.-based Crossfield Products Corp.

“The challenge was to find a resurfacing material that could be confidently applied over hard glazed tile,” according to Miracote Division Vice President Ronald Borum. The mall operation also requested that work be limited to shutdown while maintaining full access to tenants during the day, he recounts.

They found their solution in Miracote Repair Mortar II, a slurry underlayment that not only bonds very well to prepared tile, but also flows into the grout depressions and displaces missing tile, providing a smooth base that virtually eliminates any existing tile grout pattern profile.

The next order of business was to make the repaired floor fit in with what Borum calls “a welcoming street envisage of leisure life” in the retail shopping and dining experience offered by the mall. This was accomplished by using other Crossfield products — Miracote Micro-Topping and Miracote Mirastain II — to create texture and color to the floor.

The application was accented by geometric patterns created using Miracote Micro-Topping, which consists of a series of integrally pigmented resilient cementitious coats that are saw-cut into patterns,” says Borum, with each section individually treated with a series of four colors using Miracote Mirastain II and a polyurethane sealer.

The entire job, approximately 37,000 sq. ft., required less than three weeks to complete, according to Borum. “The finished surface is resilient under foot, making it more comfortable than tile to stand or walk on for extended periods. Maintenance is easily achieved by lightly cleaning using a floor machine, and if desired, the application can be buff-waxed to maintain a shine.

“A strong emphasis is placed on research and development with the most experienced staff of chemists in our market segment, Borum says. “An equal emphasis is placed on service with an experienced sales, technical and customer service staff designed to provide assistance to building material distributors and their contractors.”

UNTRADITIONAL CONCRETE

In business since 1905, San Diego-based T.B. Penick & Sons Inc. is active in projects worldwide, with a client list that includes The Mills Corp., Limited Corp., and Abercrombie & Fitch, according to Frank R. Klemaske, director of business development, Site Concrete & Innovative Concrete Surfaces.

The company's Innovative Concrete Surfaces division offers a variety of visually appealing surfaces including Lithocrete???, a product originally introduced to the marketplace in 1999. “Lithocrete is a surface-seeded architectural concrete paving system process,” says Klemaske. “It is designed to provide an owner, architect, landscape architect, or other specifier, a superior architectural concrete paving finish unmatched by traditional concrete finishes,” he explains, “at a substantial cost savings to granite, slate, brick, terrazzo and other veneer-type paving systems.”

Lithocrete takes care of a number of problems for shopping centers, continues Klemaske. “It solves a cost issue by filling in the gap between what a designer wants as a unique concrete surface with the look of granite or terrazzo — at a relatively low cost,” he notes. “It adds a lot of interest to the ground that would otherwise go unnoticed.” The process also allows many materials to be seeded into the concrete, giving the designer opportunity to make a design more project-specific — for example, a project near a beach can be seeded with shells, according to Klemaske.

Maintenance costs also are greatly reduced through the Lithocrete process. “Lithocrete requires virtually no maintenance, unlike other architectural finishes such as stamped, stained and terrazzo, while the use of seeded materials helps retard staining caused by things such as food and coffee,” says Klemaske. “With the seeded materials, you don't get the wear marks, otherwise known as ‘cow paths,’ as you would with other types of material.”

Other products and services from Penick & Sons include glass aggregates, horizontal and vertical applications that include reactive coloration and trowel down micro-top systems, graphic patterns artistically saw-cut and sandblasted, imprinted and colored concrete, and seeded and exposed aggregate. “Our team of professionals provide artistic, design and cost-engineering support to designers, architects and interior designers,” notes Klemaske, “and they deliver a complete line of cost-effective services beginning with the initial stage of a project, through to its successful completion.”

In a project completed this past January, San Diego's Fenton Market Place utilized T.B. Penick & Sons' products and services in installing 10 concrete finishes and nine concrete colors, resulting in 18 different concrete surfaces covering more than 110,000 sq. ft. at Fenton Market Place in San Diego, reports Klemaske.

“The finishes ranged from broom-finish integral colored concrete to seeded glass aggregate with multiple reactive colors,” he notes. The installation involved three different textured concrete patterns and six types of seeded materials. “We also used a variety of coloration techniques, including integral colored concrete, color hardeners and our reactive coloration system,” he says.

REMOVAL TIME

Sometimes it's time to take up the old floor and put on a new one.

Pelham, Ala.-based SurfacePRO focuses on “hard tile removal,” but removes all surface coverings, including VCT floor tile, rolled sheet goods, wood parquet, ceramic and quarry tile with settings, carpeting, elastomeric waterproofing materials, sports floors, most epoxies, terrazzo, marble and other surface coverings, says company President Mitch Aubut.

“Our system is a combination of processes, including the use of proprietary surface removal equipment, that saves our customers time and money,” says Aubut. Unlike traditional floor demolition, SurfacePRO removes tile and thin-set with no substrate damage, he notes.

“We save owners money because they don't have to fix the substrate after the ceramic has been taken up with jackhammers and other similar methods,” he notes. “The SurfacePRO system creates a fraction of the dust produced by other, more traditional methods,” he says. “Our dust control methods require only minimal barrier construction and dust curtains, thus saving even more time and money.”

Shopping center clients of SurfacePRO include The Rouse Co. and Simon Property Group, says Aubut. In a recent job, his company removed ceramic tile from 133,000 sq. ft. of common area as part of the remodeling/renovation of Simon's Boca Raton Town Center. “The owner had been told that this tile was put down so hard that it couldn't be taken up — but we were able to get the job done,” he recounts. The SurfacePRO system can typically take up some 3,000 to 5,000 sq. ft. of flooring a night, Aubut adds, with costs, depending upon the locale and other factors, typically falling in the $1.50 to $1.60 per sq. ft. range.