Dass gives retirement another try

LaVerne Dass is retiring from Carpet World Flooring America – again.

The first time, his retirement lasted only two days; this time, Dass said, “I’m old enough.”

Dass, 79, the facility manager, has been with the business since about three days after it opened in 1973. He was hired as a salesperson by Larry Leiting and has been working for Pat Leiting since he bought his dad’s business.

“Not many people would start their lifelong profession at the age of 39,” Dass said. “When this opportunity came up … I had worked at other companies and worked against Larry. I said, ‘If you can’t beat him, you might as well join him.'”

The elder Leiting, Dass said, “hired me over a bowl of chili and a cup of coffee at the old King’s restaurant.”

The restaurant was near the former store location, “so we didn’t have to buy gas” to get there, Larry Leiting said.

But, today’s business – in a new building at a new location and with some 40 employees and subcontractors – is a far cry from Carpet World’s humble beginnings when Larry Leiting, Dass, a warehouse manager and a bookkeeper comprised the entire staff.

“We had one sales car that we took turns using after 6 o’clock when we closed … that’s how we started out,” Dass said.

In the 40 ensuing years, the business transformed from a store where 80 to 90 percent of its sales were strictly carpeting to a place that sells everything in a house – tile, countertops, cabinets, wall coverings – except furniture.

The store is hosting an open house Friday in Dass’ honor, although Pat Leiting pointed out Dass had already had one retirement party when he turned 65.

“I stayed home for two days,” Dass said. “Larry called me and read my mind. He asked what I was doing, and I said, ‘I’m going out to Payless (Cashways, which is now closed).’ He said, ‘What for?’ and I said, ‘The house I live in only has one boss, and I’m not it.'”

Larry Leiting told Dass to come down to the store and talk to him before making plans to work for Payless Cashways.

“He didn’t even try a bowl of chili; he talked me back into it,” Dass said, with the understanding that his schedule would be more flexible than before.

“He kind of let me pick and choose what I wanted, but he wanted me around,” Dass said.

“I really enjoyed having him here,” Larry Leiting said. “We were here a lot of years together. You didn’t have to worry about Verne showing up for work in the morning. He would likely be here before me.”

Pat Leiting echoed his father’s sentiments, saying two words that describe Dass are “dedication and loyalty,” traits that Leiting said seem harder to find in today’s world.

“I definitely appreciate Verne having been loyal,” Pat Leiting said.