The Dixie Group: Celebrating 100 Years - Oct 2020
By Meg Scarbrough
In a year marked by uncertainty and challenges, a Dalton, Georgia-based company is quietly celebrating a major milestone. Of the millions of businesses tallied within U.S. Census Bureau data, only several hundred have hit centennial glory, and among them is The Dixie Group. This year, it joins that elite club with other household brands like Band-Aid, the National Football League and the Baby Ruth candy bar, which are also turning 100 this year.
Dixie hasn’t always been in the carpet business, and in fact, it didn’t focus on the flooring business until the last 35 years.
In the 1920s, before jeans and jumpers, mini dresses and cargo shorts, the expectations were that no decent woman would show her legs without some sort of leg covering. Back then stockings-mostly black or sometimes nude-colored and fashioned mostly from silk, wool and cotton-were in high demand and allowed women to show off their legs without baring them. Hosiery was big business.
One popular style was made from mercerized cotton, a process in which cotton is stretched through a chemical bath and then dried, creating a stronger yarn that is soft and shiny. It was lauded as being equivalent to silk, if not more desirable.
In the early ’20s, there were several hosiery manufacturers located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These mill owners along with a few local businessmen devised a plan to build their own local mercerizing yarn facility. They adopted the name “Dixie” and started construction.
Underground springs at the site chosen for the factory created problems that blew the construction budget, and the venture needed more capital to complete. With mounting debt, the board of directors began searching for additional funding.
Help came in the form of a man named John T. Lupton, a Chattanooga businessman who had started amassing wealth by securing the rights to bottle and distribute Coca-Cola. Aside from the investment, he also had personal reasons for supporting the new Dixie textile venture. His son, Thomas Cartter Lupton, who had withdrawn from college early, was seeking a place to work. John Lupton was hoping to find him a job elsewhere than within his bottling business. He was just what Dixie needed, and Dixie needed the money.
With the necessary funding secured, the Dixie Mercerizing plant began operation on December 29, 1920.
But the spindles hadn’t been turning long before John Lupton was ready to take Dixie in a new direction. His idea was bold. Instead of just finishing cotton yarn, he wanted the company to start spinning its own yarn plus create a knitwear operation. His vision included building a small mill town on 800 acres of land just outside of Chattanooga. In 1922, construction began on Lupton City.
Launched in 1923, Lupton City featured a 12,000-spindle factory, 72 company-owned homes, a grocery, a school, church and more. It was the first step in Dixie’s transition toward a new future and firmly established it in the yarn business.
Over the next several years, Dixie’s success grew, and production was expanded, with 20,000 additional spindles coming online in 1927. That same year, Cartter Lupton became president of the company and his father took on the new role of board chairman. Revenues continued to grow, and by 1929, the company saw profits on sales top $5.8 million.
John Lupton died in 1933 at the age of 72, but the path on which he had set Dixie remained strong. Remarkably, during his time as chairman of the board, he never accepted a salary.
For more on the history of the Dixie Group over the years, read “Bound and Determined: The Dixie Group, 1920-2004” by John Longwith, which is available on Amazon.com.
DIXIE EXPANDS & DIVERSIFIES
In the years following John Lupton’s death, Dixie continued its expansion in the yarn business, and at one point, held government contracts to supply the United States military-which was embroiled in World War II-with blackout curtains, parachutes and shoelaces. It accounted for 70% of Dixie’s output during that time frame.
After the close of the war in 1945, Dixie was positioned to expand outside of Chattanooga. In May 1947, under the leadership of president J. Burton Frierson-Dan Frierson’s father-Dixie purchased Rockfish Mills, a 31,000-spindle yarn company in North Carolina. The company also began experimenting with fibers at its Lupton City plant and started spinning nylon, which was considered a miracle fiber at the time due to its ability to stand up to heat and mildew and the fact it was easy to wash and dried quickly. The firm’s success was so profound that Dixie’s leaders fast-tracked plans to erect a nylon yarn production facility, and in 1950, a new $450,000 plant opened in Lupton City. No longer was Dixie just a cotton company.
But with a vision still in place, diversification of fibers wasn’t enough. In 1952, Dixie made its first of at least a dozen acquisitions that would ultimately chart its new course toward carpet.
Candlewick Yarns was a producer of tufting yarn that was used for bedspreads, robes, scatter rugs and bathmats, using a process that had been developed by a woman named Catherine Whitener. Whitener is credited with creating a cottage industry for tufted bedspreads that would launch the tufted carpet industry. Dixie saw Candlewick-named after the style in which Whitener designed her bedspreads-as a plant that could put its waste fiber to use by making chenille while creating a profitable revenue stream. So in May 1952, Candlewick was acquired for $600,000.
But as times change, so do consumers’ desires, and it wasn’t long before demand for cotton began to wane, replaced by synthetic fibers that offered more styling options and uses. At the same time, Dalton, which had been the bedspread capital of the country, was also seeing change. Tufting machines were invented that allowed mass production of chenille, moving the handmade work of local residents into factories. The business expanded from making bedspreads to making other items like tufted rugs. As popularity in tufting machinery and its uses expanded, carpet became the next product rolling out of the factories. While rugs have been traced back thousands of years, carpet prior to the ’50s had not been considered a reasonable flooring alternative because of limitations in production, which meant higher prices.
With tufting machinery now in place and nylon churning through it, carpet now had a solid footing from which to launch. In just a short time, Dalton transitioned into a carpet manufacturing mecca, and Dixie saw in it an opportunity. If Dixie could incorporate nylon, perhaps it could begin making yarn for carpet. And so it did.
With Dixie firmly planted in the yarn industry and cotton mercerizing becoming a thing of the past, a name change was set in motion. In 1965, Dixie Mercerizing became Dixie Yarns.
As Dixie continued to grow, it made additional acquisitions that would double its textile holdings, as well as help diversify its lineup:
• 1955: Royston Mills in Georgia from Rayerest Mills
• 1963: Allendale Company, a manufacturer of worsted yarns in Rhode Island
• 1965: A finishing plant in North Carolina owned by Aberfoyle Manufacturing
• 1969: A plant in Stanfield, North Carolina from Southern Stretch Yarns
• 1978: Three yarn apparel plants in North Carolina
• 1986: China Grove Cotton Mills and its subsidiaries in North Carolina
• 1987: Ti-Caro, a manufacturer or yarn, thread, knit fabric and apparel based in North Carolina that operated 20 plants.
The efforts began to pay off, with Dixie generating record sales of $606.42 million in 1988, up from $86.48 million two decades earlier. But during that time, the textile industry began to falter as pressure from imports began to mount in the mid-1980s, and Dixie, like other textile manufacturers, began to see revenues decline.
Dixie was also faced with internal structuring costs that had become a financial drain. Piece by piece, Dixie began to dismantle parts of its business and reorganize, and that meant selling some of those assets and closing plants.
Beginning under J. Burton Frierson, Dixie Yarns got into the apparel business, and, over the years, produced yarn and fabric for big labels like Ralph Lauren, Ashworth, Land’s End and Buster Brown.
DIXIE ENTERS HIGH-END CARPET BUSINESS
Despite generating record growth in 1988, Dixie was at a crossroad: fade away as a supplier to the apparel industry, and eventually lose, or charge full speed ahead.
Armed with buying power and a clearer vision forward, the company saw an opportunity when Masland Carpets, a carpet and rug manufacturer founded in 1866 and based in Pennsylvania, began to sink under the crushing weight of debt and a merger that left it in tatters.
Dan Frierson, who by this point had led Dixie for nine years, had been courting the idea of a merger with Masland for some time, but those talks had not been fruitful. “We had been selling them yarn for 40 years, and we had talked in the ’80s about maybe trying to get together,” recalls Frierson.
But this time around, Masland was facing the auction block. In a bid that created a holding company that included Dixie, Prudential Life and Masland, Dixie was able to secure a 49% share of Masland’s high-end designer rug line, C.H. Masland and Company. It gave Dixie a foothold, albeit a small one, in the carpet business.
Just a few years later in 1993, Dixie acquired Carriage Industries-a vertically integrated carpet manufacturer located in Northwest Georgia-and its subsidiary, Bretlin Needlebond, from its owner, Clarence Harris.
Over the years, Harris had built the business from a small venture with one machine to a multimillion-dollar industry in the heart of the world’s toughest carpet competitors. But unlike Shaw or Mohawk, Carriage’s emphasis was on supplying the makers of modular homes and motor homes, with some work in other channels.
Recalls Frierson, “Carriage was an interesting acquisition. We bought it in 1993. They differentiated with service and did a great job. And that worked well. By the late ’90s, 25% of new housing was modular.” Manufacturers were building nearly 300,000 units a year, he notes, adding, “We had about 60% marketshare of the manufactured home business, and that was a highly profitable business for us. We had our own trucking. We serviced that business to death.”
That same year, Dixie also completed its acquisition of Masland with a cash-and-exchange valued at around $20 million. With revenues from Candlewick, Masland and Carriage combined, Dixie’s floorcovering sales represented nearly half of the company’s total revenues-more than $590 million-in 1993.
But the changes didn’t stop there. In 1997, Dixie expanded its carpet business once more with the addition of Danube Carpet Mills, a tufted broadloom maker in North Georgia and Carriage’s largest competitor. A few months later in October, Dixie purchased Dalton-based General Felt Industries, which was significant because GFI was like Bretlin and manufactured the same line-up. The acquisition expanded Bretlin’s customer base.
By 1998, at least two thirds of Dixie’s revenue was in floorcovering, a huge shift from the cotton mercerizing that was Dixie’s focus 78 years prior.
As a new Dixie began to emerge, one that reflected diversification and growth, its leaders began to mull a new image. On May 1, 1997, shareholders agreed to retire the old Dixie Yarns name and adopted The Dixie Group.
DIXIE LEAVES TEXTILE BUSINESS
While things were looking bright on the floorcovering side, the textile business was hemorrhaging money in the late ’90s. As Frierson explains, the traditional textile industry was under siege from continuing import threats that began in the ’80s and it would not survive long-term.
Frierson says Dixie had seen the writing on the wall years earlier, which is why it began its acquisition of companies like Carriage in 1993 that it felt would continue to grow in spite of competition from foreign entities.
So in 1999, after nearly 80 years in the business, Dixie left the textile industry, shedding its assets with one firm goal in place: focus on floorcovering.
But it wasn’t just about making carpet, it was about making the best.
The following year, in July 2000, Dixie set out to acquire Santa Ana, California-based Fabrica International. It was by far the most expensive and luxurious carpet on the market, selling for $35 to $50 a square yard at wholesale, meaning 2,000 yards installed would cost an end user at least $17,500, according to Dixie archives. It found its niche in yachts, luxury homes and even the White House.
The deal included a $20 million investment up front followed by $52.5 million by 2005, and it helped secure Dixie’s brand as a luxury floorcovering manufacturer.
DIXIE HOME LAUNCHES
By 2002, Dixie was seeking new growth opportunities. While Masland and Fabrica gave the company a strong foothold in the upscale luxury sector on both the commercial and residential side, Frierson and his team identified an opportunity for a brand that, while a step down from its existing brands, would still be able to stand up against the carpet behemoths like Shaw and Mohawk. The idea was to provide a product in the mid-priced range.
At the helm of the effort was David Polley, who had spent decades in the flooring industry and who was brought in specifically for the effort. “David was as good a student of industry as anybody I knew,” Frierson recalls.
According to archives, Polley and his team, which included Kennedy Frierson, got to work developing a plan that would launch a new product, Dixie Home, that officially went to market in January 2003. At the outset, the carpet was manufactured by Carriage, but Masland later took over production.
In a little more than a year, Dixie Home launched 50 products into the market and found its home among 4,000 of the country’s top retail stores, including Home Depot and the Carpet One group. For 2004, the division had set a sales target of $35 million to $40 million. Over the years, Dixie Home has continued to grow and prosper, and Frierson credits the leadership of Paul Comiskey, former president of Dixie’s residential business, who retired in 2018.
Today, its soft surface offerings include patterned, looped, textured products using its own branded nylon, Envision 66, and Stainmaster-branded nylon 6,6.
OTHER BIG MOVES
As Dixie transitioned to a carpet-centered organization, leaving behind the textile industry, its Carriage division was faced with mounting competition as well as dwindling demand for manufactured housing.
Among Carriage’s clients at the time were Clayton Home, Fleetwood, Champion and Oakwood Homes, with Clayton being the biggest customer. According to Frierson, business had been good at one time, “We had about 60% share of the manufactured housing business. It was a highly profitable, good business.”
When Dixie bought Carriage in 1993, there were more than 254,000 new mobile units shipped around the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2003, that number had plummeted to 130,000. Companies that were manufacturing homes began feeling the pinch. Complicating matters, it was announced in the spring of 2003 that Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s holding company that owned Shaw Industries, was buying Clayton Homes.
“It didn’t take long to figure out that probably wasn’t a good place for us to be,” Frierson says. The purchase meant that not only did Dixie and Carriage lose a major client, but now the firm had greater competition. As author John Longwith put it, “Carriage looked like a horse about to be shot out from under Dixie.”
That same year, Mohawk announced it was acquiring Lees Carpets; it was a move that came after Bob Shaw, then with Shaw Industries, had attempted to reach an agreement of his own with Lees. The purchase threatened Shaw’s position as the world’s largest carpet manufacturer.
It was then that Shaw made an offer to purchase Carriage and other North Georgia assets for around $200 million. Frierson says Shaw previously made an offer to purchase Carriage, but nothing came to fruition. This time, however, Dixie felt the time was right to sell, and in November 2003, Carriage went to Shaw.
While it may have felt like a blow to Dixie at the time, manufactured housing has continued to slide in the years since. In 2019, fewer than 95,000 new units were shipped around the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
From 2012 to 2014, Dixie continued to make acquisitions, including a Colormaster dyeing facility as well as Crown Manufacturing, which has specialized wool rug tufting equipment, in 2012; Robertex Associates, a producer of wool floorcovering, including the Robertex and Carousel brands, in 2013; and Burtco, a hospitality floorcovering maker, in 2014.
Dixie also purchased Los Angeles, California-based Atlas Carpet Mills in March 2014, adding to its arsenal another high-end brand, but this time one specifically on the commercial side. In an effort to create one unified commercial division, Dixie later merged Atlas with the commercial side of Masland, Masland Contract, in 2018; and earlier this year, a rebrand was announced with a new logo to reflect the new AtlasMasland identity. Together, their brands cover carpet tile, broadloom, area rugs and luxury vinyl flooring.
THE BRANDS TODAY
After decades of transitions, Dixie today is composed of three lines-Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica-and its commercial division, AtlasMasland. Each brand has maintained its own unique flair.
Frierson notes that bringing in Masland and Fabrica was a “natural” progression, adding, “What Dixie was known for on the textile side was high-end, differentiated, beautiful, high-quality product. So that was the target market we sought to serve with our carpet business.” And he says that mentality has allowed the company to be important to its retail customers over the years.
“We don’t want to be in the commodity end of the business,” Frierson says. “That’s why we have very little polyester, which is where the commodity end of the business is today. In fact, our wool business is larger than our polyester business.”
And that focus on the higher end of flooring has helped, at times, to insulate Dixie from market fluctuations like recessions.
So what does Dixie offer today?
Dixie Home: This is on the more affordable end of Dixie’s product line-up and focuses on residential tufted broadloom carpet and rugs geared toward selected retailers and home centers under the Dixie Home and private label brands. The product line features Stainmaster, PetProtect and a new EnVision 66 Nylon Collection, which is growing and gaining traction. It has also begun offering LVF.
Masland Residential: Moving up the price point scale is Masland, the oldest brand within the Dixie family of products, which is now closing in on 155 years. Its focus is on design-driven specialty carpets and rugs made from nylon 6,6 and wool. According to Frierson, this line is sold at four and a half times above industry selling prices.
Fabrica: At the top of the luxury tier is Fabrica, which markets and manufactures luxurious residential carpet, custom rugs and engineered wood. Its primary customers are interior decorators and designers, select retailers and furniture stores, luxury home builders, and manufacturers of luxury motor coaches and yachts. Fabrica is among the leading premium brands in the domestic marketplace and is known for styling innovation and unique colors and patterns. Fabrica consists of extremely high-quality carpets and area rugs, in both nylon and wool, in a wide variety of patterns and textures. It sells at an average rate of six times higher than industry prices.
AtlasMasland Contract: This is the combined commercial division of Dixie. Its commercial products, which include broadloom, rugs and LVT, are marketed to the architecture and design community and directly to higher-end commercial end users, as well as to consumers through specialty floorcovering retailers. It also sells to the hospitality market with both custom designed and running-line products.
MORE THAN CARPET
Carpet continues to hold the largest share of the flooring industry at about 35%. But in the last decade, that number has shrunk as the popularity of hard surfaces has surged. The shift has been led by consumer preference for hardwood and the advent of luxury vinyl tile. In 2019, Dixie’s residential soft surface sales were down 8.8% compared to 2018, reflecting the industry-wide trend; soft surface sales of commercial products were down 12.4%.
While major carpet manufacturers show no signs of throwing in the towel-or rug-on soft surfaces, they have been launching into hard surfaces lines, including hardwood and luxury vinyl flooring.
Continuing its legacy of diversification with market changes, Dixie has entered new flooring categories, ones with little connection to its yarn legacy.
Since 2017, Dixie has introduced nearly 200 hard surface products across all three residential brands-Dixie Home, Masland and Fabrica-aimed at responding to consumer demands. Both Dixie Home and Masland offer TruCor SPC and WPC in hard surfaces, while Fabrica carries a higher-end hardwood line. On the commercial side is an LVT line called Calibre. Within the TruCor product line, recent introductions include TruCor IGT (Integrated Grout Technology) and TruCor Prime XL/XXL, one of the largest rigid LVT planks in the industry.
Dixie currently sources its hard surfaces products, and Frierson says that’s not likely to change anytime soon. But he adds that with more competitors entering the hard surface business, “it may alter the dynamics and change what we need to do. The time will probably come when we should [manufacture it ourselves], but hopefully we will have business already developed” so the company won’t be bringing new equipment online while also trying to build a customer base for the product.
So far, the investments appear to have paid off. Last year, residential hard surface sales increased by 47% and more than 80% YTD in 2020. Frierson credits Jamann Stepp, vice president of the hard surfaces division, for its success so far. “Most of his career has been focused on hard surface and he understands the business and has a feel for it,” he says.
Frierson says the hard surface category remains the biggest challenge-and the biggest opportunity-for Dixie.
INVESTMENT FROM THE TOP
Part of Dixie’s success over the years, starting from the beginning, Frierson says, has been a consistent focus on people, which has been especially important amid acquisitions and changes over the years. “We’ve made 12 to 13 acquisitions,” he says. At its height, the company employed nearly 10,000 people. Of its current staff today, “only 80 people work for the Dixie Group who worked for Dixie Yarns in 1988,” according to Derek Davis, vice president of human resources and longtime Dixie employee, highlighting how many people have come into Dixie through acquisitions.
“We are really a combination of subcultures,” Frierson says “We had all of these different cultures trying to work together along with our textile business. And we felt like it was important that we cross-pollinate and perpetuate a culture for the entire company.”
Since it started in 1997, Dixie’s Legacy Leadership has graduated more than 1,000 people, and the results have been two-fold. Frierson says, “The people we lost as we’ve downsized, particularly when we got out of the textile business, would come back and say, ‘Thank goodness for all that training. It really helped me and what I’ve done since I’ve been with this new company.’ And I think it helped those that stayed. It helped us transfer a culture from one industry to another. And I think our culture is somewhat different from a number of other carpet companies. It’s more of the old textile culture, but in a very positive way.”
That type of people-oriented training is something other longtime successful organizations in the industry have also instituted over the years.
Davis adds that Frierson makes it a point to connect with each and every employee, even when there were 10,000, through annual meetings that take place at the end of each year. “We used to start at Thanksgiving weekend and go straight through until Christmas week.” But with fewer people these days, he says it “doesn’t take nearly as much time to do it now.”
Frierson says ultimately the company’s success comes back to “sincerely trying to treat others with dignity and respect. We have spent a lot of time talking about our values at every facility. Every time we are there, we go through our core values. And it’s all about people. It’s been leaders who really were willing to lead by example as opposed to lead by command. I think over the years we’ve attracted those kinds of people and they’ve been able to flourish in the kind of environment we have.”
He adds, “It’s not so much what you make, but how you deal with people and how you operate your company. We have an awful lot of really good people.”
Recited at the start of every meeting:
“Our people are our most important resource and our primary source of competitive advantage. We will provide opportunities for individual growth and development.
“We will hold ourselves to the highest standards of honesty and integrity in working with our associates, customers, suppliers, and communities.
“We are obsessed with making our customers more successful.
“We will never be satisfied with where we are today. We will act aggressively in the relentless pursuit of our vision.”
TAKING ON TOUGH TIMES
When Frierson reflects on the challenges Dixie’s faced over the years, he’s drawn to the acquisition of Carriage.
“We bought them at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, March the 12th,” Frierson recalls. But excitement around the acquisition was short-lived. That evening, a blizzard began to roar across the East Coast, including states in the South. In a matter of hours, snow blanketed Georgia and Tennessee, with some areas reporting up to 60 inches, according to news reports. The next day, under the weight of the snow, seven acres of Carriage rooftops collapsed.
To complicate matters, Carriage’s previous owners had recently changed insurance carriers. Frierson says, “They only had a binder; they didn’t even have a policy. So a lot of the new policy hadn’t been written.”
“We were out of business,” Frierson recalls.
But the troubles didn’t stop there. Within a month of the blizzard, the president of Carriage resigned. And a couple of weeks after that, Dixie’s CFO stepped down to take a job elsewhere.
Three months later, a plant in Chatsworth, Georgia burned down. “We think it was arson, but we’ve never been able to prove it,” Frierson recalls. And six months after the fire, on January 17, 1994, a warehouse located under an interstate in California was crushed in a magnitude 6.7 earthquake. “Everything was a total loss,” Frierson says. Then on March 27, 1994, a tornado hit Saxapahaw, North Carolina, ripping the roof off a plant there. “It rained in and rusted out all the equipment, and it never started back up,” he adds. “That facility today is an apartment complex.”
Not long after, lighting struck another plant in Ranlo, North Carolina and knocked it out of commission for a week or so. And as if all that weren’t enough, torrential rains hit Chattanooga and flooded the original mercerizing plant. “We lost a lot of the motors that were located down in the basement,” Frierson recalls.
“During that period was when I re-read Job,” Frierson says, referring to the book of the Bible in which a man’s faith is tested. In the end, after some negotiating, Dixie collected $50 million and was able to replace all of the damaged equipment.
Not all of Dixie’s challenges have been wrought by Mother Nature. Frierson says, “We’ve been through a couple of world wars, a couple of other wars and other kinds of issues. But we’ve never been through a pandemic. The last pandemic [the Spanish flu] was in 1918, and that was two years before the company started,” Frierson laughs.
As the COVID pandemic began to hit the U.S., Frierson says it was clear the first priority needed to be Dixie’s people. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what we needed to do to keep our people as protected as possible,” he says. “We believe we have the best safety record in the industry, and it’s because of our belief in people and keeping people safe and healthy. And we’ve long said, ‘Accidents hurt people, and people are our most important asset.’ So you’ve got to strive to have a safe working environment. And the same thing goes for health.”
He adds, “Our second thought was that there was still a level of business activity out there. There were still orders coming in.” Some companies elected to stop production, but Dixie did not. Instead, he says, they reduced the number of shifts from three to one in an effort to pull down inventory while still servicing the business as it came in.
While the flooring industry did see initial hits in sales during March, April and May, there has been some rebounding, and manufacturers and retailers alike remain hopeful that sales will bounce back.
But another area of concern over time has been on shareholder value. Frierson says there have been plenty of issues over the years, some self-induced, others not. “The biggest one we had in the last couple of years was in our commercial business when Invista stopped making the piece dyeable carpet yarns that gave Atlas’ carpets their distinctive custom looks. This decimated the value of that acquisition.”
As a result, Dixie had to undergo a total reconfiguration of the commercial business, which included combining Atlas and Masland, as previously referenced. “I think what you’re going to see moving forward is hopefully a company that’s a good investment for shareholders,” Frierson says. “If you’re not, over a long period of time you cease to be.”
On remaining positive through that tumultuous time, Frierson adds, “Fear is a great motivator. None of us like to fail. So we worked through all of those things. It makes today look pretty easy.”
From its shaky beginnings as a startup idea by a group of Chattanooga businessmen, Dixie has become one of the country’s leading carpet manufacturers and one that creates some of the world’s most high-end products. It has become the country’s fifth-largest carpet manufacturer and eight-largest overall flooring producer with total sales of $375 million in 2019, carpet representing an estimated $354 million of that.
And it’s the company’s commitment to people that its partners say continues to make Dixie successful.
Charles Monroe, CEO of Card-Monroe Corp., is among those applauding the achievement: “Congratulations to the Frierson family on 100 years of yarn and soft flooring excellence. The Dixie Group has been at the forefront of the flooring industry creating compellingly beautiful carpets and rugs by continually investing in design and cutting edge tufting technology.”
Phil Koufidakis, president of Baker Bros. Flooring in Phoenix, Arizona, points to the leadership: “Dan Frierson has built and guided an incredible company. Their history is amazing.
“Through his leadership they have been able to build a company of incredible people and have always put their customers first. In addition, because they view the product development part of the business with a consumer first attitude, they are always staying on point with design, color and texture. Most manufacturers think, ‘What can my machines do for me?’ Dixie thinks, ‘How can we use our machines to design products that inspire the consumer?’”
So what’s in store for the next 100 years?
“I’ve been at Dixie 54 years,” Frierson says. “And what is fascinating is that when you look back 50 years ago you feel like, ‘Gosh y’all were moving like molasses. Slow motion.’ And everything today is happening rapidly. It’s going to get faster and faster, so I think we’re going to have to be a lot more adept, maybe more than we are comfortable with.”
Down the road, “we will be a very different company in what we make and what we do,” he adds. “Three years ago, we weren’t in the hard surface business and we are today. And I’m sure we will be in other things five or ten years from now.”
As Frierson puts it: “We’re just getting started.”
1919-1921: J. Harvey Wilson
1921-1927: John T. Lupton
1927-1934: Thomas Cartter Lupton
1934-1947: George West Jr.
1947-1963: J. Burton Frierson
1963-1970: W. Ralph Ewing
1970-1979: Robert T. “Bob” Davis Jr.
1979-present: Dan Frierson
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