Walking on Sunshine

06 Sep 2023

Carpet Baggers Flooring offers a sense of humor & family values

By Katelyn Rutt

What catapulted Dean Kelly into starting a flooring venture of his own was when a second paycheck from his employer bounced. Kelly was 29 years old with a new home and baby.

“The company sold fireplaces, garage doors, insulation and flooring and were a fairly large company but struggled with their cash flow and money management. I had been praying about starting a company and speaking to folks about a new venture, but that second bad check was the last straw,” said Kelly, who founded Carpet Baggers and serves as president of the company.

His wife, LouAnn, was a firm supporter from the start, but others weren’t so encouraging. After tendering his resignation, Kelly says he was told by his boss to “get ready to fail” and that he would “see just how tough it was to work in the industry.” 

It was no obstacle for the determined entrepreneur who set out with a healthy dose of perseverance and prayer—albeit no money. 

“I was turned down for credit from a few vendors because I had no established relationships, and again, very little money,” Kelly says. “I remember my first job was a water damaged wood parquet floor replacement. I helped the crew take up the old water-logged wood and Carpet Baggers was suddenly in business.”

The company was playfully named by Kelly, who ironically is a lifelong South Carolinian, not the transplant the phrase refers to.

“My very supportive mother told me, ‘Please do not name your company Carpet Baggers. Those sweet little old Southern ladies will throw you out of their homes.’ I told my mother, ‘At least they will remember our name.’ For 31 years the city of Charleston has called Carpet Baggers for their floors and she has since told me that she may have been wrong about that one!”

Since 1992, Kelly has fostered a customer experience that is honest, approachable and friendly—without the pushy box store approach. Carpet Baggers centers around showcasing the breakthroughs in flooring technology and appearance, all while avoiding the pitfalls of buyer confusion and overwhelm due to an overload of flooring options. 

“We now have a flooring showroom that resembles a paint store, where all the flooring options are arranged by style and color,” Kelly says. “No longer do you have to flip through all of the different versions of the same thing. You can easily focus on the style you want and the color you are looking for without sifting through all the sand.”

True to its humble beginnings, Carpet Baggers remains grounded by the support of family. For more than three decades, the founder has carefully built a leadership team from those who share the company’s core values—including his wife, three daughters, father, sister, close friends and even a former family babysitter. 

Carpet Baggers currently serves 15 locations in South Carolina and is part of a worldwide cooperative with more than 1,000 stores. Kelly’s passion for the local community extends beyond the spheres of flooring and decor to organizations like the Carolina Youth Development Center and Toys for Tots.

“We do a lot of fun events outside the company, and genuinely love hanging out together, so when you drop into our store, you should find a group that is smiling, laughing, pleasant and ready to help you with your flooring needs,” Kelly says. “We love doing business in Charleston because it’s the only place most of my family and I have ever worked. It’s home.”

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