Slough Flooring, Harrisburg, installed herringbone hardwood floors in the State Capitol in the early 1900s, and these remain to this day. The company survived the World Wars, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and the 2008 financial crash.
Still, COVID-19 has posed some of the most unique and difficult challenges in the company's history.
Slough's three executives are all older than the age at which most people retire. All three got COVID-19. Additionally, COVID-19 disrupted business in 2020 and beyond, causing them to wonder if it would bring the company, founded in 1906, to a standstill.
"I definitely thought this might be the end," said David Keller, 72, the president.
Keller contracted COVID-19 but had only mild symptoms. He missed work but never felt in great danger.
Stu and Emmie Shomper were hit harder. He is 77 and she is 68 years old. The couple felt sick in December and for two weeks thought they had sinus infections. They eventually went to the doctor and were given COVID-19 tests that came back positive.
Neither of them was hospitalized, but they both knew they'd been hit by something big.
Stu Shomper is Slough's vice president. A pulmonary congestion prevented him from lying down at night wearing the CPAP machine he used for sleep apnea. He slept on a couch for three weeks. He's still dealing with fatigue and leg weakness that make him want to use a stick.
Emmie Shomper, the office manager and company secretary, also slept in a chair for weeks. Aside from being overworked, her main symptoms were pain and severe fatigue.
The three executives had already done a large part of their work from home. However, Emmie Shomper is responsible for certain things, such as: B. Cutting paychecks that she can't do from home. On Saturdays when she knew she would be alone, she went to the Penbrook building, which the company has been in since the 1970s.
"I got in. Not that I should have come in – I had to come in," she said. "I didn't feel like coming in, that's for sure."
She said it took weeks before she could endure more than a four-hour work day.
"It just took too much from you," she said. "I still don't feel like snuff."
Stu Shomper realizes it could have been a lot worse. His nephew, in his 50s and living in Ohio, spent 40 days in the hospital with COVID-19, including a month passed out on a breathing apparatus, according to Shomper.
"I was expecting more problems, but I didn't have them. It seems that this disease affects everyone differently. It's very strange," he said.
At first, David Keller thought the pandemic might actually help business.
A large part of Slough's work consists of wooden gym floors and school stages. Usually this work is limited to times when schools are closed in the summer.
When Governor Tom Wolf closed schools in early 2020, Keller told school administrators this was an ideal opportunity to look into the gym floors and stages. He thought it was a no-brainer and told them that all they would do was have a clerk open the building and later lock it.
However, he noted that school administrators were upset with large projects and worried about how much the job loss associated with COVID-19 could affect tax revenues and the school budget.
"Basically, all of our summer work has been canceled," said Keller. Slough does some household chores, often to fill in gaps between institutional jobs, but that has dried up too.
In addition to office staff, Slough employs 6-10 union joiners, depending on how much work they have to do. Some have been with Slough for many years.
The federal paycheck protection program helped pay employees during the downturn. Keller said the program was "extremely useful and necessary".
Slough also invested some of his own money in stock upgrades to keep his staff busy. When there was no work, the carpenters accumulated unemployment.
"We managed to keep working … we managed to survive," said Keller.
The founding Slough family was involved in running the company until 1984. Keller, who started working there in 1975, took over the management at that time. Stu Shomper has been working there for decades and started out as a plumber.
Emma Shomper also has long-standing relationships with Slough Flooring. Her father and uncle worked there and then started their own company, which merged with Slough in the early 1960s. It started there in 1977.
When asked where the COVID-19 pandemic is a business challenge, Keller said, “Construction is generally a boom or a bankruptcy. You're either scratching at work, or you've got more work to do than you can handle. That was completely different because it stopped everything. "
In January, he still didn't think Slough Flooring, or the economy as a whole, was out of the woods.
"It's a very real problem and there are a lot of companies that haven't made it," he said. "So far we've managed to keep the doors open."