Donald Riggenbach, owner of Riggenbach Tile and Carpet in New Martinsville, was recently recognized for owning the 2017 Family-Owned Small Business of the Year by the Small Business Administration's West Virginia District.
Riggenbach, whose father started the business in 1956, is humble about the award, not wanting to boast of the business's longevity. However, the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce president agreed to some recognition, due to the fact that he feels the prestigious honor bodes well for the reflection of Wetzel County.
Riggenbach's father, in 1956, started the tile and carpet business out of a building/garage on 809 Fourth Street. This location housed the showroom.
Pictured is Karen Friel, SBA WV District Director; Don Riggenbach; Matthew Riggenbach; Donna Schramm, Center Manager WVSBDC.
However, in 1960, Riggenbach's father purchased what is now the front part of the business. In 1965, the middle section of the business was purchased, and in 1968, the warehouse was added.
The apple didn't fall far from the tree, in the case of Riggenbach's father and grandfather and the entrepreneural spirit. Riggenbach's grandfather, born on April 28, 1878 on Limestone Ridge, moved into New Martinsville in 1931, and was actually in the business of real estate and building houses.
And as for Riggenbach Tile & Carpet itself, Riggenbach explained that his father started the business after noticing the need for floor covering.
"When PPG and Mobay came into the area, people were moving into the area and building homes," Riggenbach said, adding that his father was told, by peers, that people needed floor coverings.
Notably, it's been the decrease in the plants, along the river, that has caused business to lack the boom that it did in previous years.
"We've had less business," Riggenbach noted of present-day Riggenbach Tile & Carpet. "When Ormet went out, it affected more than what we anticipated." He explained that 60 percent of Ormet's employees were Wetzel County residents.
Riggenbach noted that his competition are other "necessities," such as cellular phones, and cable.
"People don't have the disposible income as much," he stated.
Despite the economic woes of the region, Riggenbach Tile & Carpet is still surviving though, and perhaps this can be attributed to the professional, yet dependable and personal service it offers.
Riggenbach Tile & Carpet is able to install flooring in areas across the region - from Hundred, to Woodsfield, St. Marys, and Wheeling. The business is also the only of its kind, between Huntington and Pittsburgh, that sells wallpaper. And though he admits that he "can't compete with the big guys," when it comes to cost, Riggenbach promises, "If something goes wrong, I'm here... I'll take care of you."
And perhaps this is why names associated with Riggenbach Tile & Carpet go back decades.
For instance, Riggenbach praises his floor covering mechanics, Randy and Gary Ritchea, along with independent subcontractors Dave Waligura and Will Hoagland.
The Ritcheas have been with Riggenbach Tile & Carpet for more than three decades. Riggenbach praises their hard work, along with Waligura and Hoagland.
One would be remiss to leave out Steve Merritt, loyal employee who has been with the business for 40 years.
Then there is Riggenbach's son, Matthew. Riggenbach noted that although he encouraged his son to follow his own career path, Matthew found himself in the family business after struggling to find work. Notably, Matthew's college degree is in Computer Animation; thus, he has been able to use a bit of those skills when it comes to advertising the famiy business.
Riggenbach, like his son, began working at Riggenbach Tile & Carpet when unable to find employment. Riggenbach actually received a bachelor's degree in Geology from West Virginia University. He went on to earn his master's degree in Oceanography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.
While still in college, Riggenbach's father had asked him to come back to help with the business, as it was growing and expanding. However, Riggenbach declined the offer, as he could see how hard his father worked, and he did not want that.
However, Riggenbach returned home after being unable to find work after graduating college.
"Dad said for me to come back home and work for him until I could get work."
Riggenbach ended up being offered a few jobs from California and the east coast; however, after working at his father's business, he realized he didn't want to be so far away from home.
And if it isn't apparent by now, loyalty to family and friends means a lot to Riggenbach. He explained that his son and daughter-in-law live in New Martinsville and have three kids. His daughter and her husband live in Indiana with their daughter. Riggenbach, a proud grandfather, notes that his grandchildren have starred in his business's commercials.
Riggenbach also brags on his wife, Jackie, noting of her work ethic and that, prior to staying at home, she worked hard for several years at local financial institutions.
Riggenbach also mentions his siblings - two sisters, Vicki Reed and Kathy Richter. Richter resides with her husband in New Martinsville, while Vicki and her husband reside in St. Marys.
"It was such a pleasure to meet Donald Riggenbach and hear about the great business his family has built in New Martinsville," stated U.S. Small Business Administration West Virginia District Director Karen Friel, of the award. "Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in West Virginia and it is family-owned businesses like Riggenbach Tile and Carpet, passed down multiple generations, that employs the community and continues to keep our state vibrant."
Donna Schramm, of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, nominated Riggenbach for his award. She praises the Riggenbach family, noting that the award has to be given to a business that is being operated for a second generation.
Schramm noted that this is hard to do, but "After talking to (Riggenbach), his dad worked there, and now the third generation is working there. It's very unique, because most of the time we hear of kids moving away and that sort of thing."
Schramm said Riggenbach Tile & Carpet, "is a good, viable business."
"Being in a small town, and they've been successful. Don is very active in the community, and I thought he was a perfect fit."