Alan S. Lorberbaum an entrepreneur, carpet industry pioneer and philanthropist, died Saturday, September 9, at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 82.
Alan Lorberbaum was a dynamic and innovative leader in the carpet and rug industry for more than 40 years. He and his late wife, Shirley, founded Aladdin Mills, Inc., and built it into one of the industry’s leading manufacturers. In 1994, Aladdin merged with Mohawk Industries, which later became the largest flooring manufacturer in the world. Alan became Mohawk’s major shareholder and joined its Board of Directors.
Mr. Lorberbaum served in the infantry in World War ll and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. After the war, he attended Lowell Textile Institute and studied textile engineering. In 1948, Mr. Lorberbaum moved to Dalton, Georgia, from New York City. He subsequently joined his family’s business, Lawtex Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of rugs and bedspreads.
In 1957, he founded Aladdin Mills in a former skating rink. The company produced rugs and bath mats for discounters, a rapidly growing retail format. Aladdin focused on the rug and bath mat business until the late 1970’s. The businesses grew rapidly and in 1968 Aladdin consolidated its manufacturing facilities in Dalton. Today, the Antioch Road facility is one of the industry’s largest manufacturing operations with over 2.5 million square feet on the site.
With his engineering background, Mr. Lorberbaum created unique and efficient manufacturing processes that gave Aladdin a low cost position in the market. He took great pleasure in designing creative ways to maximize production and improve quality. His hobby was his business, and he spent the majority of his time perfecting it. He described his role as being similar to that of a conductor leading a premier symphony orchestra.
Aladdin moved aggressively into the carpet business in the 1980’s after many companies were already well established in the market. Mr. Lorberbaum was convinced that through efficient manufacturing and superior service he could provide value customers would prefer.
Mr. Lorberbaum established a talented team of executives to build Aladdin into an industry leader. Aladdin was among the first carpet producers to invest in fiber extrusion, which created a competitive edge. In addition, new technology to produce carpet more efficiently became available, and Aladdin led in its adoption. At the same time, Aladdin invested in a distribution and trucking system that enabled the company to provide a higher level of service than the industry standard. Customers were able to get most of its products in one or two days around the distribution points it was establishing. Mr. Lorberbaum referred to it as “sudden service” and it was a mantra he institutionalized in the organization.
These investments—in people, manufacturing facilities and distribution networks—allowed Aladdin to grow into one of the largest carpet manufacturers in America. Mr. Lorberbaum was fiercely devoted to his employees and believed that all problems in businesses were caused by their management. He believed it was essential for management to develop systems and processes that make jobs easier. Mr. Lorberbaum enjoyed a devoted following among his employees. He saw them as an extension of his family, and his kindness, respect and generosity toward them reinforced that feeling no matter how large the company grew.
In 1994, Mr. Lorberbaum recognized that the industry was consolidating and that the company required additional capital to grow even faster. To accomplish this, he planned to take to the company public. During the last stage of the process, Mohawk Industries purposed a merger which would make the combined companies a leader in the industry by maximizing the strengths of both. Mr. Lorberbaum joined Mohawk and became a member of its board. Today, Mohawk designs, manufactures and distributes carpet, ceramic, rugs, laminate, stone, wood and vinyl with plants in the U.S., Mexico and Europe.
Mr. Lorberbaum’s legacy goes well beyond the company he founded. Through their philanthropic endeavors, he and his wife focused on supporting issues that impact education from early childhood development through higher education. They believed education is essential to the success of individuals and communities. Today, the scope of his commitment to education can be seen in two buildings that bear the couple’s name: the home of a day care center for low-income families and the liberal arts building on the campus of Dalton State College.
Survivors include his daughter Suzanne Helen of Denver; son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Sarah Lorberbaum of Chattanooga, TN; son, Mark Lorberbaum of Miami Beach, FL; and grandchildren Nicole, Erik, Lauren, Brian and Cole. He is also survived by a brother, Charles Lorberbaum of Dalton, Georgia.
Contributions in memory of Alan Lorberbaum may be made to Dalton State College Foundation, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA 30720.
Mohawk is a leading supplier of flooring for both residential and commercial applications. Mohawk offers a complete selection of broadloom carpet, ceramic tile, laminate, wood, stone, vinyl, rugs and other home products. These products are marketed under the premier brands in the industry, which include Mohawk, Karastan, Ralph Lauren, Lees, Bigelow, Dal-Tile, American Olean and Quick-Step. Mohawk's unique merchandising and marketing assist our customers in creating the consumers' dream. Mohawk provides a premium level of service with its own trucking fleet and over 250 local distribution locations.