George R. Pierce came to Montana in 1913. He sold patented medicine on the road while traveling in a Ford Model "T", often using a compass for direction. He was married in Butte in 1916 to Margaret, moving to Billings that year. Over the next 12 years, he held various jobs ranging from a parts man for North West Auto, a Huppmobile dealer, Chevrolet salesman for Goan Motor Company to the Nash salesman for Rich Motor Company.
In 1924, George R. decided to try selling used cars for himself, renting the west half of a building located in Billings at North 30th Street and Montana Avenue. He always said he did not handle used cars, only "Experienced Automobiles". Later he rebuilt wrecked automobiles. It was not unusual to see a Chevrolet chassis with an Essex body, or vice versa.
George Pierce was a master organizer and salesman. However, a man once remarked to him "Your place is so dirty. How can you get people to stand still long enough to sell them anything?" Thinking quickly, George replied, "The joint is dirty, but we are sociable." This became a new phrase in his advertising, along with his myth of a dog named "Gum Shoe". Over the years, he had many men and boys employed, and he often times provided them meals and a roof over their heads during tough times. George always said, "No one works for me, they work with me."
In 1939, George became the distributor for Willy's Jeep in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming. About this time, he also started in the flooring business with linoleum. Used cars, used parts, automobile repair, and what little linoleum was available, carried on the show through World War II. After the war, his sons, John, Frank and George L. Pierce came home from the Army and joined in the business.
Shortly thereafter, he added carpet to his linoleum department. Automobiles were handled on one side of the building, carpet on the other side of the building, with linoleum, tile, and paint in the basement. The business grew until it became necessary to purchase a used car lot at 5th Street West and St. John's Ave. With extra space available, a few travel trailers and mobile homes were added to the business. This rapidly grew into one of the largest RV, manufactured homes, leasing, and parts & service businesses in the region. By then Pierce was utilizing two locations, the first being the original 5th Street West facility for Pierce RV's and Pierce Parts & Service. The second location was at the intersection of Moore Lane and Laurel Road, where they boasted of having an inventory of over a ½ mile of homes.
In 1965, Kaiser Industry cancelled all Willy's distributorships. By this time, business expansion warranted use of the entire downtown store at North 30th and Montana for the flooring business, with all auto related activities located at the 5th and St. John's location.
Ownership was about to undergo changes as well. George R. Pierce passed away in 1958 of a heart attack. Ten years later, in April of 1968, John and George L. Pierce purchased Frank's share of the businesses. Following the passing of John Pierce in 1971, George L. Pierce's family became the sole owner.
During this time, Pierce Flooring expanded its operations by establishing a retail store in Bozeman in 1967, located at the corner of 6th and East Mendenhall. As its business grew, a new store was constructed in 1971 at 544 East Mendenhall, across the street. The next phase of Pierce Flooring's expansion was in Billings. In 1972, the Pierces purchased a building, originally a bowling alley, located at 2032 Grand Avenue and opened the Carpet Barn, a "discount" retail store. In 1977, Missoula became the next new location for Pierce Flooring when an old Safeway grocery building was leased, and ultimately purchased at 1603 Brooks Street. As warehouse capacity grew short, the decision was made in 1978 to construct a new, 19,800 sq. ft. storage and warehouse facility located adjacent to Interstate 90, just east of South 27th Street in Billings. In 1984, Great Falls became the next expansion for Pierce Flooring, locating on an old dairy property situated on 5 acres on 7th Street South.
More ownership changes occurred as the next generation of Pierces grew up in the businesses. With the passing of George L. Pierce in 1993, his sons Ron and Bill assumed ownership and leadership responsibilities until Bill's death in 1998. At this time and into the present, Ron has assumed ownership of the Pierce family of companies.
Butte, Montana was selected to be the next location for a flooring store. We remodeled and moved into a former grocery store located on Dewey Street in the summer of 1994. As business grew in Bozeman, the decision was made to build a beautiful new facility in 1995, on the west side of Main Street. A year later, in 1996, further expansion took place in that same market, with the decision to acquire a second flooring store.
Carpet Mill Outlet is located 4 miles west of Bozeman on the road to 4 Corners. This store serves as the counterpart to the Carpet Barn in Billings, selling discounted and promotional inventories. In 1998, we opened a new Billings Pierce Flooring store at 2950 King Avenue West. The new Pierce Home Center houses Rimrock Lighting, Appliance and Cabinet Center, and Pierce Flooring. In March of 2001, we acquired a modular and manufactured housing location in Great Falls. In June of 2002, Pierce Homes and RV's moved to their new location at 3800 Pierce Parkway next to the new Zoo Drive interchange in southwest Billings. In January 2006, we started a second location for RV's, this time in Kalispell. Our most recent expansion took place with the opening of a Pierce Flooring store in Helena in June of 2008.
The Pierce businesses have grown into a large Montana-family owned operation with annual sales volume in excess of $70 million. Pierce Flooring is recognized as being one of the top 30 retailers in the United States, and all businesses have been cited for many awards and accomplishments over the years. Our family of companies now employs over 230 people. The businesses are based on hard work, honesty, trust, and taking extreme care of our customers, suppliers, and employees, while giving back to Montana's communities.
EXPECT THE EXCEPTIONAL AT PIERCE!!