By Mike Steely
After 43 years Garry Tener is retiring. The Broadway Carpets chief operations officer and Knoxville community activist is well known in the region and The Knoxville Focus asked him several questions. His responses may surprise and delight you.
Garry and Becky Tener have been married for over 44 years. Becky retired as a kindergarten teacher with Blount County schools after 35 years of service. She is an avid runner having run the Boston Marathon four times, the New York City Marathon, San Francisco Marathon, Cincinnati “Flying Pigs” Marathon, and all 16 of the Knoxville Marathons. She has run hundreds of 5Ks, 10Ks and other distances as well. Becky has also been the pianist at their church, Beech Grove Baptist in Louisville, for over 46 years.
Garry and Becky have two grown sons. Joshua is married to Brittany and they have a three-year-old son named Eli. Joshua works for First Bank and Brittany works as a CT RT at Tennessee Urology. Their other son, Jeremiah, is a social studies teacher at Northwest Middle School in Knoxville.
What was your first job and what did you do?
My first job was at a business my father was a partner in. It was called The Salvage House in Maryville. We sold everything from furniture to floor coverings. That’s where I first got experience in flooring. Since I was one of the owner’s sons, my dad made me do all the dirty jobs. I took out the trash, cleaned the toilets, loaded and unloaded the trucks. He wanted me to learn to work and to realize that every job was important. If it wasn’t important we wouldn’t pay someone to do it. I worked my way up to assistant manager before leaving to go to work for The R.A. Siegel Co., an Armstrong Flooring distributor on Atlantic Avenue in North Knoxville just off Broadway. After 17 years there, I went to work for Broadway Carpets and Flooring and spent the rest of my career there. I have always been very blessed with the integrity of the people I’ve worked with and for.
Where did you attend school? Are you from Knoxville or how did you come here?
I am an East TN boy having lived in Blount County all my life. I went to Maryville High School and the University of Tennessee. My wife and both of our sons also went to UT. Both of our sons were in the Pride of the Southland Band for their four years respectively. They had a lot of fun and so did we. (We went to a lot of games and still do.) We also went with the band to Ireland as they marched in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland. Wow, that was a great trip!
In your career what was the most rewarding memory?
Most rewarding memory in my career-Probably when several of us at work saw a story by Don Dare from WATE about a mother and daughter who were disabled living in a mobile home and were having mobility issues with their wheel chairs. After seeing that story, our sales manager Bo Perkins helped mobilize several companies to get them help. Broadway Carpets and Flooring supplied the floors, former UT football great Daniel Hood got his team helping and several other companies got together to help those ladies who were in real need.
The other would be Broadway Carpets and Flooring being the flooring supplier for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. I now serve as the chair-elect on their board. So rewarding to see these hard working people get a hand up to home ownership. It is the only non profit organization I know of that has a 97% success rate. It changes family trees forever.
I had several children of the homeowners take me by the hand as they show me their new room at their Home Dedication. Some of which have never had their own room before. That ministry changes lives forever. I will be on their board for another two and a half years (If they’ll have me, haha).
Ever have a difficult customer and, without naming them, tell us about it.
Difficult customers? Just like any retail store we get customers from all walks of life and situations. Floor coverings are bought when a house needs to be fixed up or changed and those reasons can vary greatly. Some are very happy and some are heart wrenching.
Happy times are when someone is just wanting to make their house more warm and comfortable or update their home with new colors and styles. Just make things better.
I have had people start to cry when picking out new floors because someone in the family has passed away and the house is being fixed up to sell. Someone is sick and they have mobility issues now. Their mother or father may have had to move out of the home that person grew up in because of some illness. We don’t know what any of our customers have just experienced and if they are not happy that day, then we try let them know that we are there to help them.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies include hiking, biking, boating and Shotgun Sports like Skeet, Trap, 5 Stand and Sporting Clays. Broadway Carpets and Flooring sponsors a sporting clays tournament that benefits Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. Lots of fun. My wife and I have made vacations out of her marathon races as we traveled to some of the big cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco.
Are you a member of associations, clubs, etc? If so, please tell us about it.
As I mentioned, I am on the board of Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. I have been the co-chair of the Broadway Corridor Task Force, I have been on the UpTown North Branding Committee and I have been on the board of the North Knoxville Business and Professional Association.
What are your plans now that you have retired?
Now that Becky and I are retired, we hope to get our COVID-19 vaccinations and travel some. I know Becky wants to run more marathons at different cities around the world. I want to shoot more clay targets and participate in tournaments as well. Obviously, I want to spend time with my grandson, Eli. We’re going fishing on our dock now that he’s a little bigger. I want to do more with Knoxville Habitat as well.