One of the old traditions of tufting history is the numerous spreadlines that used to fence Highway 41 from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Clotheslines sagging under floral and peacock chenille bedspreads and housecoats lured the northern tourist into small gift shops to purchase the treasures of the tufting industry. Many of these small shops died with the advent of interstate travel. One such company, which had eight gift shops stretching from Cartersville to Tunnel Hill, survived the changes to become an interstate retailer and wholesale supplier within the industry. This is the story of Beckler's Carpet.
Burch and Claudell Beckler, their daughter Lyndal and son Randy, are good examples of those who made the transition in a developing tufting industry. As the industry grew, "bedspread boulevard" gave way to interstate marketing. Some business principles remained constant, while others had to be modified, until only the hardy and the persistent survived.
At the age of thirteen, Claudell tufted bedspreads by hand for ten cents a spread for G.L. Westcott of Cabin Craft. Burch grew up in textiles as a mechanic for Real Silk Hosiery Mills in Dalton. When the depression slowed the textile business, he sought work in Detroit. Homesick for Dalton, he returned in 1942 and using a single needle machine, Claudell began to create bedspreads whose intertwined border design "looked like a black snake." Burch returned to Real Silk as a mechanic. Working out of the home of their aunt, he and Claudell serged together remnant sheeting from Crown Textiles of Dalton, since World War II shortages almost eliminated available sheeting. They added a design and sold it to the tufting plants. After six months Burch and Clarence Thomason, a restaurant owner famous for his nickel hamburgers, pooled their assets to start a small plant.
"Good money" led them to construct a small building next to their rental home on Ashworth Drive. They were becoming well enough known that salesmen like Fred Lloyd of Lloyd Linoleum & Rug Company were buying every peacock spread they could produce. Soon they were buying more machines and leasing them to women who sewed spreads in their homes. Backing was added to the sheeting and a design was printed at the plant; then Burch would carry out the spreads twice a week. Later he would take the completed ones to Crown Laundry for finishing and return them to the plant for inspecting and shipping.
By 1950, they built a small gift shop next to their new home and a plant behind it at Valley Point on U.S. 41, south of Dalton. Slowly the shop expanded to eight gift shops up and down the Dixie Highway. Each gift shop was individually owned, usually by relatives, but Burch provided the tufted goods. They sold chenille spreads, housecoats, bathroom sets, pillows, house shoes from J.W. Bray Company and even chenille dolls. The dolls were stuffed with lint, had a plastic face, and were made by a local barber, Henry Hall, and his wife. Each shop was in competition with the others, although they were generally run by relatives. Yet all benefited from Burch's heavy commitment to a variety of road signs advertising all the beautiful treasures awaiting within each store.
When World Carpet opened its doors on Green Street, Burch began to buy carpet remnants from Shaheen Shaheen, cut them into small rugs, and sell them to his eager customers. Soon it was rolls of carpet. In 1960, the Becklers moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to help a struggling store they had begun there. In 1963, Burch returned home to retire, but he could not settle down. He rented a building from James Thomason just a short distance off an exit on the new Interstate 75. He also expanded to stores in Jackson, Mississippi; Huntsville, Alabama, and the Tri-Cities of East Tennessee. Just prior to Burch's death it was decided to concentrate on the Dalton operation, and Randy and his mother began to handle primarily World, Queen, and Galaxy Carpets. Since July 1981, they have operated on the edge of the interstate. Ten years ago 80% of their business was wholesale to dealers, but currently, his business has completely reversed in the direction of retail. Advertising has continued to be a hallmark of Beckler's success. Burch initially peppered the tourists with catchy signs immediately before each gift shop: "Chenille Spreads Just Ahead on Left," "Chenille Robes and Pillows," and "Bath Mat Sets and Slippers." Even if people did not shop at the first store, it prepared their minds for the next Beckler store down the road. Today, the largest billboard between Chattanooga and Atlanta towers over their beautiful showroom while others dot the interstate.
Finally, the support of Shaheen Shaheen from the start, and particularly at the time of Burch's death, provided a stable force in crucial times. In the early days, Claudell can remember Burch and Shaheen sorting remnants on July 4th for the gift shops. When Burch died in 1975, Shaheen and his wife Piera were in Chicago, but early the next morning they arrived in the Beckler driveway. They told 24-year-old Randy, 'We'll stick by you and your credit line is good with us." With that vote of confidence and the successful business left by his father, Randy has worked with his mother to expand the operation and develop ''as much as he can say grace over." Now, Beckler's is bigger and better than ever, recently having opened their all-new 26,000 sq. ft. showroom. And so the Beckler's story goes on. Please visit us if you are in the Dalton area.