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Ray's Flooring Spent a Year Laying Terrazzo Pictures at the Children's Hospital

By Richard Metcalf
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    A river runs through each floor of the newly expanded University of New Mexico Children's Hospital.
    The blue river widens and narrows as it curves down corridors, linking stylized medallions on the floor. The river guides visitors to different departments, which use particular medallions as their logos.
    The symbol-laden flooring was designed by Studio Southwest Architects, the project architect, working with hospital officials and an advisory group of parents.
    The job of delivering the design went to an Albuquerque company, Ray's Flooring, owned by a family that traces its local roots to the days of the original Atrisco Land Grant.
    Founded by Ray Lucero Sr., the company spent a year putting down about 500,000 square feet of flooring as its key part in the $244 million hospital expansion.
    The scope and intricacy of the hospital's river-runs-through-it design likely made it the most challenging flooring project ever in New Mexico, said Shary Adams, the project's principal architect.
    "It was pretty complicated," admitted Gerald Lucero, one of Ray's sons who oversaw the project. "At first, a lot of it was done with trial and error."
Biggest project
    The $5.1 million project was the biggest in company history and included tile work in the restrooms and the sandstone portion of the building's exterior.
    The project will also help push Ray's Flooring to its best year, with almost $20 million in sales projected for 2007. The company has about 150 employees.
    And it caps off a year in which the company consolidated from three locations in the Northeast Heights to a nearly 100,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Meridian Business Park off Unser and Interstate 40.
    A carpet installer by trade, Ray Lucero Sr. launched his own flooring company nearly 40 years ago as he and wife, Dorothy, raised their five children— Ray Jr., Gerald, Martin, Bernadette and Chris.
    "All of us grew up in the business with Mom and Dad running it out of our home in the 1960s," Ray Jr. said.
    Ray Sr.'s business strategy was to go after commercial jobs such as offices and stores. He would work all night or on Sundays to get jobs done.
    "It was always about doing what it takes to service the customer," Ray Jr. said about his father's work ethic. "It sounds so generic, but there's a lot behind it."
    At age 68, Ray Sr. is still president and "works as hard as anyone," his eldest son said.
    "We say, 'Dad, take it easy,' '' Ray Jr. added. "We can't slow him down."
    Gerald, the second oldest, was the first to join his father full time in 1983.
    "My plan was college," he said. "I had just gotten out of (high) school and wanted to wait a year. I went to work with my dad and it never got slow. I didn't want to leave him in the lurch."
    Martin followed in 1985 after graduating from the University of New Mexico with an accounting degree. Initially working in the warehouse and helping with payroll, he's now the chief financial officer.
    "If we did a million (dollars) in business, that was a good year," he recalled of his early years with the company.
    Ray Jr. joined the company in 1986 and focused on establishing a residential division. "I saw the opportunity, with (Ray Sr.'s) relationships and reputation in the industry, to pursue the home builder business."
    Bernadette later joined the company but, after 14 years, left last year to home-school her five children. The youngest son, Chris, is a city firefighter.
Breakthrough job
    A breakthrough came when the company did flooring during construction of the Hyatt Regency, the 22-story hotel in Downtown that opened in 1990.
    "That's probably what took us to the next level," Martin said.
    The following decade saw steady growth in a market that ebbed and flowed with the economic times.
    The typical breakdown of business evolved into about 45 percent commercial, 45 percent residential and 10 percent retail, said Ventura Roybal, vice president of operations.
    With business growing rapidly and space running out, the family made a conscious decision about five years ago to restructure and streamline its operation.
    "The hardest part has been going from a mom-and-pop to a large company," Martin said. "We had to integrate it, make it all centralized and efficient."
    A major step was to embrace scanner and bar code technology to keep track of inventory.
    "We try to be as sophisticated as possible," Roybal said. "We've implemented adjusted-time inventory— you find the least amount of time possible to get the material in, hold it and get it out."
    The company had a 16,800-square-foot office and warehouse at 2241 Phoenix NE, 12,500 square feet of industrial space on the 3300 block of Vassar NE, and a leased design center at 3035 Menaul NE.
    Another element in operating more efficiently was consolidation of the three locations into one.
    About four years ago, the company started looking at alternatives.
    Finding vacant land and erecting their own building had appeal, Ray Jr. said. The price of a new building, however, would have limited its size.
    The family looked at the 97,230-square-foot distribution center vacated by Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health in Meridian. The building was marketed by CB Richard Ellis for $5.2 million.
    "We were tire kickers," Roybal said.
    When another potential buyer put the building under contract, Ray Jr. said, they realized that they had missed an opportunity.
    When the deal fell through, the Luceros worked with brokers Patti Peixotto and Hunter Greene of CB Richard Ellis to buy it.
    Over the past month, Ray's Flooring has gradually consolidated into the building at 7301 Los Volcanes NW.
    There's still a lot of interior renovations to be done, but eventually the design center will take up about 15,000 square feet. Two-thirds of the space will be used by builders with whom Ray's Flooring has partnered.
    The building will also house Design TECH, the nearly two-year-old division that does the precision cutting of hard materials like tile so amply displayed at Children's Hospital.
    The buildings on Phoenix and Vassar have been listed for sale with CB Richard Ellis. The proceeds will be pumped back into the building at Meridian Business Park