Meek's - The Builder's Choice is equipping showrooms in its Missouri and Arkansas stores with a new product line: hardwood flooring and molding manufactured by an Ozarks-based company that was once a competitor.

Starting April 1, Mid-America Hardwoods Inc. will cease its retail operations in Sarcoxie and begin selling its retail products exclusively at 30 Meek's stores throughout Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Meek's General Manager Charlie Meek said he knew very little about Mid-America until October, when Meek's acquired Heritage Home Center Inc., a Columbia-based door and flooring distributor.

"I was familiar with (Mid-America Hardwoods') name as a retail competitor in the Joplin and Monett area," he said.

Heritage President Jeff Ball, who stayed on with Meek's, had previously worked for Mid-America and spoke highly of the company's workmanship, Meek said. When Ball arranged a face-to-face meeting with Mid-America representatives to discuss the possibility of selling its hardwood products at the Columbia home center, Meek tagged along.

"I was completely surprised at how big and how nice of an operation Mid-America was, and they're just right down the street in Sarcoxie," Meek said. "I went out and visited them, and realized, man, why are we fighting each other? ... I said, 'Hey guys, we'll sell the hell out of your flooring, and we'll help you get out of the retail.'"

Scott Templeman, vice president of sales for Mid-America, said the interest exhibited by Meek's was well-timed. The privately owned and operated hardwood manufacturer was deep into its budgeting process, Templeman said, and management was taking a hard look at the retail side of the business, which catered to customers within a 50-mile radius.

"From that standpoint, it made sense, and it gave us the opportunity to focus on our core business of manufacturing," Templeman said.

Mid-America and Meek's finalized a vendor agreement in late February. Neither party would comment in detail about the terms of the agreement, but Templeman stressed that Mid-America's retail division has not been sold.

"With the majority of our products, we try to establish manufacturer-direct partnerships," Meek said. "And when we establish (those partnerships), we very rarely sever ties or bring another vendor in."

March has been a transition period for both companies.

In late March, Mid-America educated 34 Meek's employees about its various hardwood products and trained them in sales techniques, Templeman said. At the same time, Meek's was making final merchandising and inventory preparations for displaying and selling Mid-America products, which Meek said would initially include 12 colors of prefinished hardwood flooring, 20 molding profiles and a wide selection of hardwood boards. Eventually, Templeman added, Meek's will carry handrail and stair components manufactured by Mid-America.

About six employees affiliated with Mid-America's retail operations were laid off, but Templeman said the company, which employs about 165, expects to add employees on the manufacturing side. Mid-America's 10,000-square-foot retail store in Sarcoxie - opened 10 years ago - will be converted into a customer-service area for the company's wholesale operations, he added.

With the addition of Mid-America's hardwood flooring and trim, Meek's has rounded out its offerings for high-end home builders and remodelers who continue to work despite the overall wane in residential construction, Meek said.

"It's part of us rounding out our product mix," he said. "Our motto for years has been 'foundation to finish.' ... When we say 'foundation to finish' now, we've got it."