Victor Kemp – Tom Duffy
The Victory Kemp Company was founded by Victor Kemp, in Los Angeles in 1926. Originally in the business of selling carpet cleaning supplies, The Victor Kemp Company expanded into carpet installation supplies in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, about this same time, Victor Kemp passed away. Mr. Vern Waters, who had been working for the company, then became the owner.
The Victor Kemp Co. was truly one of the early pioneers into what is now the wholesale flooring supplies business. Vern expanded his business throughout the Los Angeles area, and started selling into Orange and San Diego counties. Early on, Vern helped a man named Brian Barry start his own business in the Santa Clara area of California. Vern let Brian use the name Victor Kemp, and when Brian later decided to retire, he sold the Santa Clara business to a company out of Texas called L D Brinkman.
Vern Waters was most likely the originator of the “deliver out of a van” concept of wholesale supplies selling. Using this technique, he started selling into the San Diego market in the late 1950’s, from Los Angeles. It was so successful that in the early 1960’s, Vern opened a location in San Diego. And in the early 1970’s Vern sold part of the Los Angeles business to a co-worker named Walter Bugreef. At that same time, Vern decided to move to San Diego, and give full attention to running the Victor Kemp Co. of San Diego.
By 1978, Vern had decided to retire, and sell the San Diego operation to Walter. Walter found that he didn’t want to run the San Diego location, and connected with an associate named Charlie Brown. Charlie came on as a partner, and completely ran the San Diego location. He later bought out all of Walter’s interests in 1989.
Charlie Brown had previously worked for Lehman Brothers as a stock broker, and for Roberts Consolidated as an outside sales rep. By the end of the 1990’s, Walter Bugreef sold his interests in the Los Angeles Victor Kemp Co. to Desoto Sales Co. and soon retired.
So with consolidation, what was once three separate Victor Kemp Companies, was now reduced to just one: “The Victor Kemp Company of San Diego”. Charlie’s son Damon joined his dad, and has worked in the business from his sophomore year in high school. Growth took the company up to 4 locations at it’s peak. Charlie Brown had owned the Victor Kemp Company of San Diego for 24 years, when in September of 2003 he retired and turned over the controls to his son Damon. Charlie was always such a proud father, getting to watch Damon run the business and continue to maintain the companies great reputation, and name in the industry!
Some of Charlie’s memories are:
- Being one of the pioneers to introduce computers to the supplies business, thanks to his son Damon.
- Expanding the companies product offerings to include Roppe cove base and commercial floor accessories.
- Making a life long friend in Frank Denny…..the President of Design for Living.
- And in 1980, Charlie gathered a group of local industry associates and formed what is now the San Diego County Floor Covering Association, combining the retail flooring association with the wholesale association.
Some notable things about Charlie Brown and the Victor Kemp Company:
- They sold a large amount of Henry’s Adhesives over the years to the local Military.
- They once sold a line of vinyl called “Vinylasa” back in the late 1990’s.
- Both Charlie and Damon have always been very active in the industry through board membership in the NAFCD, FIANA, and the SDCFCA.
One of Charlie’s favorite memories of the SDCFCA was:
In 1982 at the 1st SDCFCA local market held downtown at the Community Concourse Convention Center. “Getting to set up the Victor Kemp Booth, and socializing with all the customers and fellow exhibitors!” “Always a fun time!”
The Victor Kemp Company name had lived on for over 84 years, when on September 30th, 2010, Charlie, who had owned it for 31 years, sold the company to the B.R.Funsten/Tom Duffy Company. Both locations changed into Tom Duffy Co. branches, bringing the total number of Duffy branches in California to 23.