FRANKLIN COUNTY — It’s an odd time to be in the home improvement industry, said Holly Clayton, a Swanton resident who has worked in flooring for nearly three decades.

“You can’t get help. You’ve got to beg, borrow or steal,” she said, laughing.

Clayton has owned A1 Flooring in Swanton for the last seven years, and while her team has always been small, in recent months, it’s been a challenge to find people willing to do the labor-intensive work.

In addition, disruptions to the supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused delays in getting materials like carpet pads and luxury vinyl plank flooring.

“It comes and goes,” Clayton told the Messenger. “It’s a little better now, but a couple months ago was rough.”

At Newton’s Decorating Center in St. Albans, co-owner John Newton has found getting his paint, flooring and window treatments from a variety of vendors to be key to circumventing shortages.

“I deal with enough vendors that if I can’t find a product from one of the vendors, I can get it from another one,” he told the Messenger.

Newton has tapped into the local teenage population to find the help he needs. He said he’s got five to seven high school students who help out on a part-time basis.

When the ground begins to thaw and the days get longer, both Clayton and Newton see and uptick in business.

Newton said as soon as schools go on April vacation, he finds folks start to “think outside.” He gets calls about paint and finishes for decks, and Clayton finds her calendar getting booked up with appointments.

Newton got into the home improvement business in 1987, when he answered a help wanted ad for Acme Painting & Glass. About a decade later, he and his wife Karla opened the decorating center.

“I’ve been going with it ever since,” he said.

After years at the helm of A1 Flooring, Clayton is ready for retirement and will soon pass on ownership to someone new. She’ll miss her loyal customer base and the creative challenge of her work.

“Once you get into flooring, you can’t get out,” she said. “I’ve tried … It’s fun. You will never get the same bathroom layout twice.”