The Carpet man on top of Traynor Floors and Carpets in Westminster got a facelift on Wednesday
You may not know Roland A. Remnant, but he probably knows you: If you've traveled through Westminster along Md. 140 any time in the past 39 years, he has watched out over you in your travels even as he leaned into his own Sisyphean task — rolling out that bundle of carpet on top of Traynor's Floors and Carpets.
"We started that business in 1973, … and probably about '76, we put that man on the roof," said Ed Traynor, president of Traynor Floors and Carpets. "We had a contest to name him and these two kids came by and put in the box, their name that they suggested we call the man on the roof Roland A. Remnant. They won the contest, so that's the name of the guy on the roof."
Roland is a 10-foot-tall statue of wire, paint and cement that stands above the Traynor marquee in weather both pleasant and foul, which takes its toll. On Wednesday, Ed and his family ascended an extension ladder and spread out their tools to give Roland a much needed face lift.
"The paint is chipping off, so he needs to be brushed off and painted up so he can get through the winter," Ed said. "About every five years we paint it and kind of make a big deal about it. People in the area like it cause it's like — some people grew up with this guy on the roof, it's like a landmark."
As the traffic roared by, and the occasional driver laid on their horn, Ed, 69, his son, Jason Traynor, 40, and Jason's son, Sam Traynor, 16, swarmed over Roland with wire brushes in hand, three generations of Traynors scraping off the peeling paint detritus. It would take them most of the afternoon and early evening to scrape Roland clean so they could begin to freshen his paint.
"It's good family morals," Jason said, pausing to reflect on the multigenerational effort to revive the family business's icon. "My daughter's going to be here soon, she works in the company as well; it's just good family time."
Mary Ann Traynor, 20, appeared at the top of the extension ladder not long after the Traynor men had set to scraping.
"Sam," she called, to her brother, "I need help." The extension ladder wobbled as one climbed close to the roof, and the steadying hand of a sibling on its topmost rung made the final transition to the rooftop less harrowing.
Mary Ann works in the Traynor warehouse, according to Ed, while Jason and Sam are carpet installers, just as Ed had been and big Roland is still.
"When we started the business, my logo was a man pushing a roll of carpet out because my dad was an installer," Ed said. "We look upon it as good craftsmanship and workmanship is the motivation of the business, and so that's why we kind of idolized the installer rolling out the carpet."
But why a 10-foot-tall rooftop statue? The idea came from a road trip, according to Ed.
"I was driving around in West Virginia back in the '70s and I saw this big Paul Bunyan character outside of this pancake house, this lodge," he said. "I said, 'Man, wouldn't it be cool if we just had like, a big carpet guy and stuck him on the roof? That would be pretty neat.' "
As luck would have it, the sculptors who made the Paul Bunyan figure had inscribed their names on the bottom and Ed was able to look them up and get a quote for the figure that would become Roland.
"It was very affordable at the time — I thought it [would be about] $20,000 to $30,000, back in those days, and it was only about $2,000 to $3,000," Ed said. "They brought it all up the back of a pickup truck, we got a crane and stuck it on the roof, and people loved it."
Over the years, Roland has seen more than just the inevitable wear and tear of the weather and the seasons, he's actually been the target of outright abuse on more than one occasion.
Sometime in the 1980s, the exact date eludes Ed, someone got on top of the store at night and attempted a decapitation of the giant carpet man.
"They didn't really cut it off: They broke it off, and it was still attached to the frame because it's made of chicken wire," Ed said, "His head was hanging by this wire, so I cut that off and went to Baugher's and got this huge pumpkin, because it was near Halloween, and I stuck this pumpkin on its head and that was pretty cool."
Then, in 2012, four men were arrested after they admitted to climbing onto the roof at 2:30 a.m. and attempting to cut the head off of Roland with a knife. They were foiled in their attempt by Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz, who was still in the offices of the Team Utz Real Estate building, which is next to Traynor's, and who called the police after hearing their footfalls through the ceiling.
In an age where a business can advertise in channels as diverse as newspapers, websites and text messaging, Ed said that Roland A. Remnant is a unique anchor for a local business that cannot be duplicated in other mediums. He is, in a way, part of the family.
"People stop by and say, 'Yeah, I saw that man and I just wanted to come in here,' " Ed said. "It's been a lot of fun and very beneficial to us."