The Valley Flooring office and production center is not a place one would stumble upon. Located on the side of the unfrequented Kerr Road, the barn-red building that makes up Valley Flooring fits nicely into the landscape of the area. The floor, ceiling, and walls of Harvey’s office are all made of hardwood. Amish buggies and cars share the parking lot, and although he left the Amish in 2009, Harvey still lives without plumbing or electricity in his old home nearby. His business, however, makes extensive use of technology through its use of power tools in the manufacturing process as well as computers and telephones in the office.
Until 2009, Valley Flooring was a three man operation that only sold to local contractors and homeowners. When they started selling their product in stores throughout Ohio, capacity and sales doubled and the number of employees tripled. However, when Harvey left the Swartzentruber Amish in 2014, all twelve of his employees were mandated by Amish custom to quit. He struggled to train new employees until early 2015. But with the added benefit of technology, Harvey is now producing on a similar scale despite having half as many employees, the majority of whom are ex-Amish.
Valley Flooring’s story mirrors the narratives of many small businesses in Knox County. The pressure to modernize and expand distribution networks has reshaped local businesses, causing Knox County to import and export more rather than consuming and producing goods within the same region.
The Amish used to come together, but over the years I see everyone is drifting apart. Everything is getting more fast paced. I remember in 1991 when my parents moved here from Kentucky about ninety percent of the Amish were farmers and ten percent were furniture builders, contractors, or built houses. Now, it has completely reversed and less than ten percent are farmers. My father told me that when we moved here the property was $600-700 an acre, now $5000 an acre is a steal.
Photo: Harvey Zook sits in his office, which displays the handiwork of Valley Flooring. Courtesy Harry Kalish
Written by Gabe Jimenez-Ekman (’19) and Harry Kalish (’18)