The Willow Design District grew from an on-the-road carpet sales business to a showroom destination for the interior design community.
In the early eighties founder, Gary Dicus, determined that the interior design community is a special class of carpet customer. Designers have special needs. He thought no one in the Floor Covering business in Central Florida was addressing those needs well.
So in a moment of terror-filled “Aha!”, he changed the focus of his carpet selling business to focus on the needs of interior designers and called on more and more of them with carpet samples bulging from the back of his car.
Floor Coverings Change
In the late 80s, area rugs became popular in addition to wall-to-wall carpet. There was a growing demand for imported hand-knotted rugs, and to be shown properly, these had special requirements. Rug samples were not enough.
In the mid-nineties, Gary began searching for showroom space.
He reasoned that with enough space he could invite other vendors to the interior design community to set up showrooms there and create a one-stop sourcing mecca for designers.
He found the space that he needed in an old Warehouse on North Willow. He gutted and refurbished it and transformed it into a cluster of designer showcases.
Shortly thereafter he acquired the building across the street. He refurbished that building and leased it to Ferguson's, a national supplier of kitchen and bath furnishings.
Gradually the whole block of showrooms became the Willow Design District.