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06182019 Orian Celebrates 40th Anniversary; Announces Aggressive Plans for Growth

By Carol Tisch

Now and then: The present Orian Rugs headquarters in Anderson, S.C. (top picture) contrasts a photo of the 1979 management team. The facility has grown from 50,000 to 550,000 square feet.

ANDERSON, S.C. -- Orian Rugs celebrated its 40th anniversary last month in its own backyard, with an emphasis on the employees who helped the company reach this important milestone, and acknowledgement that its team - over 450 strong - is vital to achieving ambitious long-term goals.

At a celebratory outdoor luncheon at company headquarters, Orian CEO, Rob Merritt, told employees and guests: "Through the help of everyone here, the leadership of our board, our county and the great political leaders here today, Orian wants to announce the 50-on-50 Initiative." Merritt continued, "Orian holds roundabout one-third of the woven manufacturing market in the U.S. today. And we want to own 50 percent of the U.S. woven manufacturing market by our 50th anniversary. We're going to do it, and we're going to do it profitably. We're going to grow and continue to add jobs in Anderson County, South Carolina."

The sprawling Orian Rugs complex in Anderson, South Carolina, produces about 1/3 of rugs woven in the U.S. today, and plans to manufacture 50 percent of all domestically woven rugs in 10 years.


As Merritt called Orian's overseas directors to the stage, it became apparent that the company's history is rather unique. Orian was founded in the U.S. by a Belgian -- Lucien Vanwynsberghe -- who visited Anderson for the first time in 1978, and returned a year later to buy property and build the company's first production facility. In the past 40 years, Orian's production facility has grown from 50,000 square feet to 550,000. "Today, our latex department is located in that first building. That was the start of Orian rugs 40 years ago," explained Belgium-based Matthias Page, CFO of parent company Mc Three Group.

Sophia Vanweyenberghe, daughter of Orian Rugs' founder and director of parent company, Mc Three Group of Belgium, thanks employees on behalf of her father.
Sophia Vanwynsberghe, daughter of Orian's founder and a principal of Mc Three Group, explained that her father would have loved to be present for the anniversary party, and that he is very pleased with his investment and the success of the company. "He also loves the warm atmosphere and attitude present here at Anderson and South Carolina, and the good times he spent with the people of Orian," she said.
South Carolina U.S.Senator Lindsey Graham poses with Orian CEO Rob Merritt (above) and chief revenue officer, Brandon Culpepper (below), before addressing guests at Orian's 40th anniversary celebration.


Orian's international connection struck a chord with South Carolina's U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. "It's an amazing accomplishment in a world market. How do you do this?  You have to have a good product. You have to have great employees and a good price. You have to have a supportive government. Anderson County is a good a place to do this, so thank you Anderson County -- you have an attitude here of trying to get to yes.
"The bottom line is that Orian is a great example of a win-win for trade. You have a foreign investor who came here 40 years ago, saw a vision, felt this was the right place, created something special, and all the employees here are the beneficiary of a foreign direct investment.

"It's my job as your Senator working with our President to make sure that we can sell this product you make in South Carolina anywhere in the world competitively," Graham continued. "Only God knows where I'll be 10 years from now, but I'm highly confident that you will be growing, and that you will achieve your goal of 50 percent of the market on your 50th anniversary. My goal while I'm around is to work with state and local government to give you the fighting chance you need to stay in business, keep your taxes low, the government off your back so that you can grow this business and take care of your families."    

Orian's leadership team, Matthias Page, Stefaan Duchi, Sophia Vanweyenberghe, Rob Merritt, Brandon Culpepper, and Hendrik Deruyck plant a palmetto in honor of the company's new Palmetto Living brand and Orian's 40th anniversary. 

Explaining why Orian is unique in the machine-woven business, Merritt told the audience, "We're not in Dalton, Georgia; we're in Anderson County South Carolina. We're responsible for 450-plus lives, and they mean everything to us. Competition is harder now than it has ever been. But unlike any other company we know about, we are totally vertical. Everything is done under one roof. We design and develop -- from pure inspiration to extruding the yarn, weaving it through one of our looms, finishing, and shipping it all over North America." 


Orian employees with from 25 to 38 years with the company plant a palmetto tree in honor of the new Palmetto Living by Orian brand. From left,  Larry Clinkscales, Greg Stansell, Stanley Gaines, Tommy Brown, Selena Kelly, Randy Jefferson, Kathy Benson, Mitch Cummings, Jeff Wilson and John Lockaby. 

Calling all tenured employees with 25 to 38 years of service to the stage, Merritt continued, "I don't care what machines or equipment you have, without people you have nothing. With them we will grow. The only way we get there is through this hard work, through the forward looking-glass of our board and the new direction that we're taking. The 50 on 50 will be accomplished, and I look forward to seeing you on our 50th anniversary to celebrate it."

Longtime Orian employees Kathy Kay, Kathy Benson, Joyce Daniel and Selena Kelly celebrate the company's Ruby anniversary. 

Asked to speak about initiatives to reach the 50-on-50 goal, chief revenue officer Brandon Culpepper pointed out, "While it has been an amazing journey to get to where we are, what is even more thrilling is that we are set up to do great things in the future.

"We have a sales force, product line, and a manufacturing plant that are meant to make us springboard into the future in a way that's not just celebrating the past, but is going to rocket us into the future. This is the fastest growing rug company in America right now. We will compete with great product, amazing process and everything going on in this plant behind me.

"Beyond that, all that really matters is this group of people. You are the base of it all. Your culture, the relationship that you have with each other, the leadership that we have in the community, the amazing leadership that we have in Belgium, all of this comes together in a unique way that creates something truly special."

Orian employees Karen Stansell and Jeromie Rainey pose in front of the 40th anniversary "growing wall."

Merritt explained that Orian Rugs is the company name, and will stay that way. As a brand name going forward, the Orian label will continue to be used for product created for big box, national chains and home improvement stores like Walmart, Costco and Lowe's. But the new brand, Palmetto Living by Orian, will target a higher end of the market including furniture and specialty stores. Launched in January, the brand is going very well, Merritt said, "And to commemorate that growth, we're planting a palmetto tree today." 

Culpepper further explained: "Palmetto Living is another way of saying 'Made in America', but it's also a way of saying 'Made in South Carolina' in a way that doesn't regionalize. It also gives away a little bit of our culture that can really be special to the rest of the world. It indicates a lot of new product that we're bringing to the market -- a lot of things that are going to be on the horizon over the next 24 months."


Jeff Hughes, senior VP of design and development, unveils a rug illustrating Orian's new Ruby quality named in honor of the company's 40th (Ruby) anniversary, officially debuting at July Las Vegas Market.

Through 2018 to the present, Orian has developed eight new rug qualities or collections that, along with a beefed-up sales team, have catapulted Orian to become the fastest growing of the top five U.S. rug producers, Culpepper said.  One such quality opening doors to new retail channels, such as the furniture and specialty businesses, is the Ruby collection commemorating the company's 40th (Ruby) anniversary. The Ruby quality is scheduled to be introduced at the summer 2019 edition of Las Vegas Market. 


Introducing Jeff Hughes, senior vice president of design and development, Culpepper said, "Jeff is a genius.  He's been in this industry a long time, and he has a team of people that can develop product like nobody else."


Hughes pulled back the curtain to reveal a ruby red medallion oriental rug, declaring, "I have the most talented design team on planet earth; the Ruby collection is our most exquisite quality to date." 


Culpepper added, "This growth spurt that we're on is going to do nothing but increase. It really is an amazing time to be a part of this company. I can't tell you how much of an honor it is to be a part of this. I want to celebrate everyone here and thank you for all you do."


In addition to Senator Graham, other South Carolina and local dignitaries attending the event were acknowledged by Merritt, including:

-Daniel Gibbs, representing U.S. Senator Tim Scott 
-Jordan Christian, representing U.S. Representative Congressman Jeff Duncan
-Brian White, chairman of the S.C. Ways and Means Committee
-Richard Cash, S.C. state senator 
-John Taliaferro "Jay" West, IV, S.C. state representative
-Craig Wooten from the Anderson County Council 
-Chad McBride, Anderson County Sheriff

Special recognition was given to long-time employees, and to those who earned their GED diplomas through an Orian-sponsored program developed with Tri-County Technical College in Anderson County.

Rob Merritt gets a laugh when he tells graduates of a GED program in partnership with Tri-County Technical Collage, that Orian's anniversary party is also their 'graduation ball'. From left, grads Holly Duvall, Kathy Anderson and Lisa Waters with Merritt.

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