Beaulieu of America, located in Dalton, was the third largest tufted-carpet company in America. An offshoot of a major European carpet manufacturer, the company was the creation of Carl Bouckaert, an industry and community leader.
Bouckaert, the oldest of seven children, was born in 1954 in Waregem, Belgium. The son of a surgeon, he was educated in rigorous Jesuit schools and then studied engineering at Louvain University. He married the daughter of Roger De Clerck, owner of Beaulieu Belgium, the largest carpet business in Europe.
When De Clerck decided to expand his business into the emerging market of the United States, he chose his future son-in-law to start a company concentrating on the woven polypropylene Oriental rug market. Although U.S. sales of this product already totaled around $1 million, De Clerck believed that there was still room for growth and charged Bouckaert with proving him right. In 1978, taking over the facilities of the bankrupt Barwick Carpets, Beaulieu America was founded in Dalton, the heart of northwest Georgia’s carpet industry.
In a few years, the Beaulieu operation became the continent’s third largest broadloom-carpet producer, and in 1984 Beaulieu opened a new facility in Chatsworth. In 1982 the company became the first to extrude its own polypropylene rug yarns. Subsequently, Beaulieu developed polypropylene berber yarns, which created a whole new carpet category. Between 1985 and 1988 the business was built on outside yarn sales, much of which was sold to Ed Ralston of D & W Carpets in Eton. From 1988 to 1992, in equal partnership with Ralston, Beaulieu acquired three of its competitors in Dalton and a fourth located in Chatsworth. In 1993 Ralston sold out his interests but remained as chief operating officer until 1997. The company continued to grow by acquiring four companies in 1997 and 1998. With the purchase of Peerless Carpet and Coronet Canada, Beaulieu became the largest broadloom producer in Canada. In 1999 company officials decided to move into hard surfaces, and the largest hard-surfaces distributor in the world, L. D. Brinkman, was purchased. The company also manufactured medium-priced commercial carpet under the Cambridge label, high-end specified carpet under the Bolyu label, and needlepunch floor covering through Murray Fabrics and its surfaces divisions.
The economic recession that began in 2000 brought stress to the entire carpet market, particularly Beaulieu, which was the most integrated in the industry. In 2007, Beaulieu pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion, and Bouckaert resigned as chief executive officer as part of the plea agreement. Beaulieu filed for bankruptcy in July 2017, and its assets were acquired by Engineered Floors.