Times (and tiles) are changing for Bishops Carpet One on West State Street, a staple of downtown Ithaca for decades that is now finishing up renovations that have it looking nearly good as new.
The local carpet and flooring stalwarts, now located at 430 W. State St., have been implementing the changes for several months, the store’s first true remodeling since probably the 1970s, according to current public relations head Thomas Pirko, whose father Dave bought the store in 2003.
Gone are the old-school tile floors of yesteryear… Or more accurately of early January, when the renovation process started in earnest. They’ve been replaced with clean wood floors and several sample squares to view any new flooring products in action, such as it is. The sample squares are easily changeable, allowing Bishops to switch out old products and place down new ones quickly whenever new styles or materials become available. While the finishing touches are still being placed, the project in its entirety will most likely be completed in the coming weeks.
The younger Pirko has been part of the store during his formative years and most of his adult life, following the footsteps of his father. As a high schooler, he worked weekends and summers, continuing through his years at Ithaca College and working their full time until reducing his hours after being hired as a firefighter in 2010. In total, he’s been at the store for 15 years, and is glad to see it getting a sorely-needed update and a bit of a revival, even if the unseen storage space of the store is still a set of eight auto bays from long-deserted auto mechanic operations.
“It’s needed it for a long time,” he said. “And also we’re reaching a point where we have some money set aside, we need to do something to spruce things up, because we’re trying to rebuild our name and brand, and rebuild our customers.”
Pirko wants the city to know that Bishops is still around, something he says people seem surprised to realize especially after the closing of the hardware store. The store has adapted over the years, going from a nuts-and-bolts hardware store to now serving a mostly female clientele. Pirko also said the store’s changing business environment surrounding it-- new stores around the establishment have opened doors, so to speak, that previously might wouldn’t have been an option for Bishops.
“It’s a re-energization of the store, re-energizing the people who work here, get some excitement going again,” he said. “Our customer base has evolved over the years, from the do-it-yourself handyman, and now our customer base is women who own a house who want to design it.”
The shop was initially opened in 1924, and back then it served as a paint shop owned by a Mr. Bishop. After changing hands to the Goldberg family it was converted into a full service hardware store, joining the Carpet One co-op in 1993. The hardware portion of the company went out of business in 2007 due to the influence of Home Depot and Lowe’s in the area, but the floorcovering part has stayed strong in the 10 years since then.
Even after the redesign has given the building’s interior a fresh new look, Pirko isn’t ashamed of the store he spent so much time working in, but he wants to ensure that it’s future is secure with some changes. The running joke, Pirko says, is that when he took over advertising duties, his father couldn’t understand why he stopped hearing Bishops’ radio commercials.
“‘Well, that’s because we’re running it on the radio stations that women are listening to, not you,’” Pirko would respond with a laugh. “I’m not afraid of our history at all. Now it’s just a matter of focusing on getting our name and information out to the new groups.”