The White House tops graduate’s customer list

Luxury carpet market a plush place for Ruggeri

By Matt Markey ‘76

The next time the news cameras are rolling from inside The White House and relaying video from the Oval Office, skip the ornate window dressings, the massive desk and the stoic portraits on the walls, and just focus on the floor. 

The elegant carpet that President Barack Obama is standing on in his official workplace as he greets foreign dignitaries or huddles with his closest advisors – that carpet has a Falcon imprint on it. There’s no visible logo, no orange and brown threads, but 1978 BGSU graduate Michael Ruggeri leads the company that produced the distinctive piece of floor covering, as well as many others.

Ruggeri’s Michigan-based Scott Group Custom Carpets has carved out a unique niche as the leading producer of high-end, one-of-a-kind, ultra-premium carpets. The firm has created a variety of rugs for The White House, including the prestigious Oval Office rug for two different administrations.

“In our industry, the Oval Office is the pinnacle,” Ruggeri said about Scott Group being selected to work with The White House interior designers for both the Obama and Clinton presidencies. 

Each president decorates the Oval Office to suit his tastes, and President Obama selected an oval-shaped rug made of 25 percent recycled wool. This rug features the Presidential Seal in the center, and around its border carries five historical quotations of significance from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

As you would expect, discretion is critical when preparing décor for the home of the president, so when a specific order for The White House arrives at the Scott manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids, Ruggeri said it carries a code name to keep the eventual destination under wraps as long as possible. But once the Oval Office carpet is completed, there comes a time for all of the company employees to take a photo-op standing alongside the soon-to-be-famous rug.

“Everything we do is custom from start to finish, but from a prestige standpoint, The White House work we do is a source of pride. It is hugely prestigious,” Ruggeri said. 

Scott Group has also produced luxury floor coverings for other rooms in The White House, but the historic building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. is hardly the only A-list client for Ruggeri’s company. The company also designs and produces custom carpets for the business jet market, so numerous Gulfstream, Bombardier and Beechcraft jets carry Scott’s handiwork at 40,000 feet, and beyond.

Scott Group also produces carpets and rugs for super yachts, and the high-end corporate and residential sectors. 

“Our business is really built around the luxury market,” Ruggeri said. “If it’s a custom seamless piece for a boardroom, or a special corporate design for a business jet, everything we produce is strictly made to order in any size or any shape. We work through interior designers, and they take our products to the customer. Each carpet or rug is individually designed, and often understated. Our internal art department is incredible.”

Scott Group has seven “to the trade” designer showrooms in the United States, and a sales office in the United Kingdom. All of the Scott Group carpets are manufactured at the Grand Rapids facility. Ruggeri said Scott Group has also acquired Hokanson Carpets,  which will expand its footprint in the residential design market.

Ruggeri has been a part of the Scott Group for 36 years, joining the company shortly after graduating from BGSU where he had studied selling and sales management, and retailing. 

After sending resumes and working with a search firm in Cleveland, Ruggeri had several options, but found the Scott Group, then a family-owned entity, was a good fit.

“I could have made more money starting out with other companies, but after meeting the people with Scott Group I felt very comfortable with them,” he said. “It was a small company with a beautiful product and I just liked the people. They gave me lots of latitude and I think that allowed me to hit my stride.”

After a stint in Cleveland, the company asked Ruggeri to establish new markets in Texas, so he moved to Dallas. He was soon promoted to vice president over sales, and then in 1990 he was elevated to president and moved to Scott’s headquarters in Grand Rapids.

Ruggeri’s younger brother Rich, a 1983 BGSU graduate with a degree in marketing and communications, had joined the company about five years after Michael started with Scott Group. 

When the company’s owner suffered a sudden illness and passed away, the owner's family decided to sell the company, and Michael and Rich Ruggeri and a third partner were able to purchase Scott Group in 1997. While many domestic firms were shuttering operations in the U.S. and seeking out lower cost production operations overseas at the time, Scott Group went a different route. They developed new markets and began to transition from approximately 50 employees to a current head count of 225. 

“We identified the business jet sector as a primary target for us, and found that market was a perfect fit for our quality and service model,” Michael Ruggeri said. “You have to support everything you do with great design and unparalleled service, and since we were able to do that, we went full bore into that market.”

Ruggeri said that what has allowed Scott Group to land and maintain prestigious clients such as The White House and many others in the ultra high-end sector is the meticulous attention to detail, and the consistency of the product.

“We recognize that throughout the world there is a market for very well made, very high quality goods. Over the last several years there has been a market shift to seeking out the absolute best in hand crafted goods,” he said. “We have a quality artisan workforce and we’ve always believed in the beauty of what we make. We compete to be the best in every facet of what we do and as a result we’ve been very successful in supplying to the luxury market.”