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Lincoln man leaves one business, gets in on ground 'floor' of another
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Lincoln man leaves one business, gets in on ground 'floor' of another

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nick and erin bock

Nick and Erin Bock started 31st Street Capital in 2018.

Nick Bock always knew that he didn't want to be in the tech services business forever.

So a few years ago, after 16 years in industry — 13 of them at Five Nines, the company he helped found — he decided it was time to do something else.

He sold his 50% share of the business to his partner and set out on a new course.

Bock's wife, Erin, who was a school psychologist, also was looking for a career change, so they decided to do some business consulting for a year.

He said they enjoyed that time, but they missed being business owners.

That desire to own a business again along with the need to find good investments in which to put the proceeds of the Five Nines sale led them to start their own investment firm, 31st Street Capital.

The name comes from the fact that they were living in a house on 31st Street, in far south Lincoln, at the time.

Bock said they decided to focus on small to medium-sized businesses, with a goal to find ones that had a good leadership team that was willing to stay in place and take some coaching.

The couple wanted to be able to guide long-term strategy of a business while staying hands off in the day-to-day management.

"We looked at hundreds of businesses — literally hundreds," Bock said, before they finally found one that fit what they were looking for.

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It was a flooring company in Phoenix, a small operation with just a couple of stores in the city.

Bock said they saw it as the perfect opportunity and bought it in 2018.

When they decided to buy a second company last year, they engaged the services of a business broker.

"One of the first deals they brought us was a flooring company in Minneapolis that was getting hit by COVID," Bock said.

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Deals three and four followed over the past year, and they were both — you guessed it — flooring companies.

Bock said he and his wife didn't know anything about flooring, and they weren't intending to invest in that industry, but they saw a ton of opportunity.

"Our intent wasn't to go deeper in one industry," he said. "But it's hard to stop doing that when you see so much value."

The four companies combined are now doing nearly $90 million in revenue annually, and Bock said the growth has led to his firm actually adding employees.

When they started, he and his wife handled all the duties, but there are now a half dozen other employees, including a president, chief financial officer and marketing director, who are spread out over three different states.

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While Bock hasn't ruled out making investments in other companies, he expects to continue to focus on the flooring industry.

Not only is the industry booming right now with a strong housing market and low interest rates spurring people to remodel homes, but Bock said it's an industry where there are a lot of family-owned companies that have been in business for decades and have owners who will be looking to retire soon.

"The opportunity is just phenomenal for us," he said.

The opportunity appears to be phenomenal for the companies that 31st Street Capital invests in, as well.

The first company it bought, Floor Source in Phoenix, is opening its third location this year. Its most recent acquisition, Floors For Living in Houston, has added 20 locations since it was founded in 2013.

"Everyone at Floors For Living is very excited to begin working with 31st Street," Jeff Streeter, the company's chief operations officer, said in a news release announcing the acquisition last month. "We couldn't have handpicked better partners to carry our vision into the future."

Bock said he couldn't have picked a better partner for this new venture than his wife.

"That's what's making this really exciting and energetic for us, is that we get to do it together," he said. "We're just having fun."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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