A Family Affair

First Class Flooring is a family-run business that truly has staying power, thanks to its timeless dedication and creative innovation.

Back in 1980, Johnson Debra was working at a carpet factory when he realized there was
an opportunity in the flooring business. He considered his options, quit his job and decided
to open his own retail store. “My dad went into broadloom—wall-to-wall carpeting that was
very popular at the time. This was the original store called First Class Carpet,” says Ralph
Debra, the owner of Toronto-based First Class Flooring. “Eventually the trends in flooring
changed from carpet to hardwood, and for the last 10 to 15 years, I’d say we’ve been doing 98 percent hardwood, vinyl and laminate.” It was also around this time that Johnson decided it was time to retire and Ralph, who had worked for his father, was ready to take over. “I spent a number of years working with my dad but at one point I left to work for other flooring companies, where I learned the hard surface side of the business. With over 22 years of experience in the flooring industry, I knew I had a passion for hardwood, so when my dad retired, I took over the store and made hardwood flooring a focus.”

While there’s still a market for broadloom, the industry has grown and so has First Class Flooring. Today, the company specializes in a host of different types of hard flooring,
including unfinished solid and engineered hardwood. They’re known across the country as the biggest distributor of “rift and quarter sawn” in both unfinished and prefinished. The big news, though, is their new location in Etobicoke: In March 2018, they moved from a 15,000-square-foot spot to a palatial 40,000-square-foot space with a 10,000-plus-square-foot designer gallery showroom. They now officially have the largest hardwood specialty
showroom in Ontario. It’s a stunning space—light, airy and inviting; comfortable but beautiful. “It’s a small measure of our success, but it means a lot to our clients.

“Under one roof you get a boundless display of inspiration, an unrivalled selection of products from around the world and the opportunity to get the perfect design to suit
your space,” Ralph says. “We wanted to create something no one else in our industry has done—we give our clients an amazing shopping experience. There’s even a bar in the
middle of the facility so you can have a glass of wine and look for the perfect flooring. I’ve always dreamed of having displays and elements like this in one space.”

The showroom—which is as educational as it is striking—and the rest of the office space is certainly a departure from the 3,000 square feet Johnson had 30 years ago. “My dad is quite proud,” Ralph says. “Parents want to see their children doing well. It’s been a great experience for him to see the way we’ve grown the business.”