Stephen Fruchter, owner of Montauk Rug & Carpet, inside the...

Stephen Fruchter, owner of Montauk Rug & Carpet, inside the Farmingdale store on its last day. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Montauk Rug & Carpet in Farmingdale closed its doors to customers for the last time on Wednesday — the same doors actor Ralph Macchio and Bayville’s Jackie Martling of Howard Stern’s radio show once walked through as customers.

“Everyone came here,” said Nancy Rothbeind, a saleswoman who has worked at the acre-sized, two-floor Price Parkway showroom for about 40 years. “They knew us because we had a huge presence, and because of all of our advertising.” She added, “We had a huge warehouse — no one else had this much material. We had carpet, padding, flooring, area rugs, rolls, remnants.” There was over 1 million square feet of product in stock, she said. 

Stephen Fruchter, who owns the business, said outstanding customer orders will be fulfilled, and his plans are to partner with another Long Island carpet company, perhaps in about a month. The 75-year-old Smithtown resident declined to provide further details about his prospects except to say the other business “wants our customer base and my expertise.”

Fruchter’s history in the carpet business goes back a long way. The family business was started in 1925 in Brooklyn as a braided rug manufacturing company by Fruchter’s grandfather Samuel, who made his products from cloth straps and straw from hats. The name at the time was Montauk Manufacturing.

“Probably around the mid '30s he moved to Manhattan and ended up at 24th Street and Sixth Avenue,” Fruchter said Wednesday as workers dismantled displays and prepared piles and piles of carpeting for disposal. He noted the location was in Manhattan’s garment district and there were so many sewing machines, “You could feel the building shake” as they were being used. In 1973 the Farmingdale site was opened as a second location, then five years ago the Manhattan location was closed.

He added, “The Manhattan building was purchased in 1942 as a factory and [the business] morphed into selling carpeting.”

Montauk Rug & Carpet began as a braided rug manufacturer in...

Montauk Rug & Carpet began as a braided rug manufacturer in Brooklyn 99 years ago.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

3 generations

Over the years the business had been a true family affair, with Fruchter’s father, Phil, Phil's brother Jack and their brother-in-law, Paul Grayson, working for the business following World War II. Fruchter worked there as a teenager, becoming full-time after graduating college in 1973.

Some employees who worked there for decades were like family too. Both Rothbeind and another longtime employee, Lorraine Bair, said it felt like losing “a second home” not being able to go to work at Montauk Rug & Carpet anymore. Bair, 78, of Commack, worked there 43 years and had many jobs including office manager and head bookkeeper.

Rothbeind, 72, of Glen Cove, was an interior designer and art teacher before working for the company, and recalled her early days when the carpet game was a male-dominated business and it took a while for her male colleagues and customers to accept a woman doing sales. Back then there was a “dress code” for the men, requiring them to wear a shirt and tie so they would look professional. “It was a ‘man’s floor,' " she said. “We had 15 salespeople and were busy at all times,” Rothbeind recalled.

Trend shifts to hard flooring

In recent years the company carried brands such as Karastan, Mohawk, Shaw, Dream Weavers, Stanton, Kane and Milliken, with Rothbeind saying many people still are committed to carpet despite newer trends in flooring. Fruchter said the “challenge” the carpet business faces today is hard — literally. It comes from hard floors.

“In the '60s when I started working in high school, wool was the main fiber, then they brought in synthetics — nylon and polyester,” Fruchter said. “Polyester was a total disaster — it had too much air and not enough twist, and when it was wet it was like when cotton candy is wet. It gave polyester a bad name for a long time; now it’s on a par with nylon.”

Fruchter said carpeting was really big by the 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s in America shag carpet skyrocketed in popularity, with wall-to-wall carpet a relatively new trend. 

“The styles change,” Fruchter said. He noted that for a while, most people even ordered it for exactly the same places in a home. “In the living room, dining room and up the steps. It was a standard order, all the same.”

Today, Fruchter said, there may be carpeting in some places in a home but, “The challenge is hard surface [flooring] — laminates, custom vinyl tiles.” However, he added, “People still want wall-to-wall for the maintenance, the longevity. Shag has even come back.”

Although he may remain in the carpet business elsewhere, Fruchter said closing his Long Island store pains him. “It’s horrible, very sad. We started with limited displays and grew and grew.”

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months