By JASON RUITER
The News & Advance
FOREST, Va. (AP) _ After a year-and-a-half of research and development, a local company has finished its new product and is ready to put it on the national market.
The product: dog-resistant flooring.
“We feel like the market is really unlimited. Nobody is doing this right now,” said Jason Brubaker, sales and marketing representative and co-owner of Nydree Flooring in Forest.
“We are trying to grow the business, exponentially, and we do feel that Hardwoof is the way,” Brubaker said. The term “Hardwoof” is even in the process of being trademarked by the company.
But is there a market for it?
Suggestions for flooring for dog owners commonly range from bamboo, cork, linoleum, laminate and vinyl. Those products are substitutes to a classic hardwood floor, which don’t stand up to dog paws and claws well. What Nydree looked to do was for dog-owners to have it both ways: quality floors that could survive the terror of their dogs.
“There was nothing on the market, finish wise, that will stand up to dogs like we wanted,” Brubaker said.
That, and pets will always be in vogue. In the last 21 years, the pet industry has grown by more than 350 percent to a $60.59 billion industry, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nearly half of American households – 46.7 percent — own a dog, according to a 2013-14 APPA survey.
Hardwoof is acrylic-impregnated, which has been around since the 60s. But it’s the finish, developed by Nydree, that gives it its strength against dogs, Brubaker said. The floor’s reported dent-resistance is 8,000 pounds per square inch.
After developing the technology, Nydree Flooring installed it for free in a 13-acre pet resort paradise for testing in Atlanta, said Betsy Cleveland, vice president of finance at the company.
Then, it was trampled and enjoyed by thousands of dogs.
“We’ve had over 5,000 dogs come across our floors with no scratches, no residue, no water marks, nothing,” said Jeff Hoehn, general manager for Pet Lodge Pet Resort, in a promotional video for the product.
The product-testimonial is part of the company’s new model for unrolling Hardwoof. Nydree Flooring has commonly sold to commercial properties. Last year, it sold 45,000 square feet of flooring to be installed at the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium.
Today, it’s garnering “affiliates,” or flooring installation companies, that will suggest Hardwoof to residential customers and will get paid a commission fee: 5 percent for individuals, 10 percent for businesses.
“This was an idea I came up with after really having a failed attempt to reach the residential market in the past,” Brubaker said. “It’s easy to get lost with a traditional floor display in the middle of the store.”
Pam Gunter, who works in customer service at Nydree Flooring in Forest, said she’s had a couple who have called, concerned about how the product will perform. Gunter said they’re not hesitant, but “they ask if there’s formaldehyde in it” after Lumber Liquidators came under legal scrutiny after it was accused of using formaldehyde-drenched laminate from China earlier this year. There isn’t.
For now, Nydree Flooring’s challenge will be to bridge the gap into the residential market with a new product. “It’s a little bit of a non-traditional path” for the company, Brubaker said.
The target audience is not dog owners, he said, but dog lovers.
“That’s a pretty large market, and that’s growing” Brubaker said. “There’s more and more demand for pet-friendly products of all types.”