When Joe Hearns threw caution to the wind and opened his first store selling carpet and other flooring needs in Michigan nearly 50 years ago, his business motto was “service is not just a word, but a way of life.” Joe had no idea the success his family business would eventually see. Five decades later, Darren, Daniel, and DJ Hearns and Dawn Cary, along with their mother, LaVerne Hearns, are carrying on their father’s legacy of treating each customer with dignity and respect as the owners and operators of Great Lakes Carpet & Tile and Veranda Home Furnishings & Design.
As President of Great Lakes Carpet & Tile, Darren Hearns oversees the day-to-day business aspects at each of Great Lakes’ three locations, The Villages, Ocala, and Gainesville.
Clockwise from bottom: Dawn Cary, Dan Hearns, Darren Hearns, LaVerne Hearns, and DJ Hearns
“Since we began in the early-‘90s, we’ve grown the business considerably,” Darren says. “We offer a full range of services and products from commercial and residential to retail and new construction.”
Much has changed in the flooring world over the last two decades. Some of the staples, including wood, carpet, tile, and vinyl, have been joined by specialty floor coverings like bamboo, cork, and even leather. Decorative pieces such as stone listellos and glass accents are also available. The options are only as limited as a client’s imagination.
“We have just about anything you can think of flooring wise,” Darren says. “Our showrooms are bright and cheerful and we provide our clients with a welcoming atmosphere.”
And Great Lakes offers clients more than just a pretty floor. It provides each client with the very best in customer service—before, during, and after the sale.
“Everyone who walks through our doors is greeted and welcomed into our store,” Darren says. “We know people’s time is very valuable, and we don’t make them wait. We have a good reputation and try to do what’s right for our clients.”
With a customer satisfaction rating consistently greater than 95 percent, they must be doing something very right.
“Great Lakes is ultimately responsible for all the work our employees do,” Dawn adds, “so we make sure our employees, installers, and subcontractors are the best out there, not only in regards to quality of work, but also quality of customer service.”
(L–R): Dawn Cary, Emily Cary, Liam Cary, LaVerne Hearns, Erin Cary, and Morgan Cary
Over the years Great Lakes has been recognized by numerous prestigious organizations and publications, including being named as one of the Top 50 retailers in the country by Floor Covering Weekly. Great Lakes was also awarded the Floorscapes Dealer of the Year award for the Florida region by the carpet manufacturer Mohawk Industries and once went on to win the coveted national distinction as well.
Veranda Home Furnishings & Design in Wildwood, where Dawn serves as co-owner with her mom, LaVerne, offers the same high level of customer service provided at Great Lakes Carpet & Tile.
“We started in 1993 as The Village Window, but quickly outgrew our location,” Dawn says. “We chose to expand our offerings to include everything for the home, from small accessories and artwork to furniture and custom window coverings.”
Dawn jokes that Veranda has everything for the home except toothbrushes, and she’s not too far off. In addition to a home’s finishing touches and details, Veranda also offers clients several beautiful furniture lines to choose from, including the Paula Deen Home Collection, Highland House, Craftmaster, and Bassett, just to name a few. Veranda is also the only Hunter Douglas gallery in the tri-county area, allowing the staff to offer customers a selection of top-quality merchandise that other area retailers can’t match.
As a complete home design center, it’s only fitting that Veranda has top-quality, ASID-certified designers on staff to help with any and all design aspects. What’s more, the designers’ services are offered free of charge to Veranda clients. Whether through a sit-down meeting at the expansive, 18,000-square-foot showroom or during a private visit at the client’s home, the designers see to it that each client will be happy with their ultimate decision and that the finished product will reflect the mood and style they were hoping to achieve.
“It’s just one of the things that sets us apart from many other home furnishings stores,” Dawn says. “Service is very important to us; we are not a point-and-sale store. People come in here with a vision and we help bring it to life.”
With the next generation of grandchildren Emily, Morgan, Liam, and Erin Cary quickly growing up, the family business may continue Joe Hearns’ legacy for another 50 years, or even longer. One aspect customers will always be able to count on, Darren and Dawn agree, is a commitment to stellar service.
“We treat our customers like family,” Dawn says. “We build relationships with our clients.”
“It’s about carrying on our dad’s legacy and following in his footsteps,” Darren adds. “We just want to make him proud.”
Great Lakes Carpet & Tile
13553 US Hwy 441, Lady Lake
Veranda Home Furnishings & Design
850 S. Main Street, Wildwood