Bernie Epstein, owner of State Vacuum of Tampa, Inc. in Tampa, Florida, has become one of the industry’s most successful independent vacuum cleaner dealers. In his nearly 50 year career, Bernie has made State Vacuum the largest independent vacuum cleaner dealership in the United States. Along the way, he became deeply committed to supporting the vacuum industry, VDTA and his local community.
In 1949, after serving in the Navy during WWII and attending the University of Miami, Bernie moved to Tampa to manage the State Vacuum of Florida store, one in a nationwide chain of 36. In 1952, he bought the store’s assets from the financially troubled chain and formed his own corporation, State Vacuum of Tampa, Inc.
Since then, the business has grown remarkably. Bernie has taken State Vacuum from a small one store, one man operation to a 24 person company with two huge stores and a separate warehouse facility. With a rare combination of product knowledge, experience, and business expertise, Bernie has made his stores the source for the highest quality products and expert floor care advice.
Bernie has also been one of the most innovative dealers in the vacuum industry. In 1982, he added a janitorial supply division to State Vacuum, becoming one of the first independent vacuum dealers in the country to enter the field. State Vacuum has since become the premier janitorial supplier in the Tampa Bay area. In 1995, State Vacuum was named Small Business of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
As successful as he has become, Bernie has taken the time to share that success and his valuable experience with other independent vacuum dealers. He has been a long-time member of VDTA’s Advisory Board of Directors, given many seminars at conventions and has given his support to numerous independent dealers. In recognition of his contributions to the industry and the association, in 1994 VDTA began to award the Bernie Epstein Scholarship to help independent dealers’ children attend college. As with many association programs, Bernie was instrumental in getting the scholarship started.
His support and involvement in the floor care industry are matched by his contributions to the Tampa Bay community. Just a few of his many community service activities include being an 18 year member and eight year chairman of the City Recreation Board, a 26 year member of the J. Clifford MacDonald Training Center’ Board of Directors, plus six years on the Board Emeritus and a member of the Jesuit High School’s President’s Council.
Bernie’s love of sports is reflected in his support for the Tampa Bay and University of Tampa’s athletic programs. He has been a member of the Tampa Sports Club for 30 years, serving on the Board of Directors and as President. He has been an active fund raiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tampa and he founded the University of Tampa’s Quarterback Club in 1959 and has been a member of its Sword & Shield Club since it began in 1967.
For his devotion of time and resources to the community, Bernie has received many awards for outstanding contributions, been named Citizen of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs and Florida A & M University, and been inducted into the City of Tampa and the University of Tampa’s Sports Halls of Fame.
1996 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee