East Coast Carpet going strong at 30

Two longtime friends are celebrating a milestone — the 30th anniversary of their businesses.

Doug Skelly and Steve Merkel are the owners of East Coast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning and Steve’s Deli (see story in a future edition of The Spectrum), respectively.

Each opened their business around the same time and soon after, forged a friendship that has carried on through the years.

“We’ve always had each other’s back,” said Merkel.

East Coast Carpet services residential and commercial businesses in the Greater New Milford and beyond.

“I don’t look at it as work,” said Skelly, a New Milford resident. “It’s what I do. It’s become part of my life.”

The carpet business has been a part of the Abbott Tech graduate’s life since shortly after high school when he landed a job at Zeigler Carpet in Danbury.

He learned the ropes of the industry there and — after a few years — opened East Coast Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning with his friend Tony Poti Jr.

“We started with zero,” Skelly recalled. “We borrowed money from my parents, which we paid back right away, and it took off from there.”

Today the company boasts a solid customer base, many of whom have been clients since the business’ inception.

“They’re highly personable, look out for your best interests and communicate well,” said Gary Kurz, owner of Rosy Tomorrow’s in Danbury, who has recommended East Coast Carpet to individuals and businesses.

“You can have a business, such as cleaning carpets, and if you make the extra effort, you can make anything successful,” Kurz said. “And East Coast Carpet is a great example of that.”

Customer care and service are a priority for Skelly.

“Steve (Merkel) and I learned the formula from gentlemen who are now retired,” Skelly explained. “They said to stay simple and stay in contact with your customers.”

That formula has proved successful for Skelly, who said he keeps meticulous logs of his service calls so when a repeat customer calls about a cleaning, he can quickly reference their account, so he knows exactly what was done in the past and what might need to be done now.

The majority of his customers come through referrals.

For first-time customers, Skelly will discuss what type of carpet service is necessary and be upfront about a carpet’s life expectancy and whether it’s worth being cleaned.

Carpet and upholstery maintenance calls make up the bulk of Skelly’s business.

He has been a longtime service provider for Ability Beyond, for which Skelly tends to some 70 of the organization’s homes.

Gretchen Smith, morning manager at the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, praised Skelly for his communication and flexibility with scheduling cleanings to fit the inn’s needs.

“It’s been great,” Smith said. “He’s wonderful, and it’s super nice to have someone local.”

Smith said on the rare occasion in the past when the inn couldn’t coordinate a cleaning with Skelly and they reached out to someone else, the service didn’t measure up.

“He’s worth waiting for,” she said.

How often Skelly provides maintenance depends on the amount of wear and tear a carpet/upholstery receives.

Having been in the business for so long, some of his new customers are children or other family members of original clients.

In addition to carpet cleaning, Skelly also does low-key water extraction, when the water level is just an inch or so. Customers have reached out to him when a water tank overflows, a pipe bursts or a humidifier malfunctions.

“Every day it’s different,” Skelly said. “I like meeting people, having conversations…asking how the kids are.”

Skelly and Tony Jr. worked together until 2004 when Tony Jr. moved to Florida at which time Skelly assumed the business and Tony Jr.’s father, Tony Sr., came aboard to help.

Six years later, the elder Tony retired and joined his son in Florida and another worker joined Skelly.

Things came full circle not too long ago when Tony Jr.’s nephew came aboard.

For more information, call East Coast Carpet & Upholstery at (860) 355-5393.