This week we sat down with some local entrepreneurs, Omar Abbasi and his partner Alexandra Brennan, who recently started their own business, Abbasi Fine Rugs.
1. In your bio, you mentioned that your dad has inspired you to start this business. Can you elaborate on that? Is your father in the rug business as well?
He is, he owns several businesses in Latin America that specialize in antique Persian rugs. He also sells furniture that my brother and I have helped him import from India and Indonesia. He has been doing that in Guatemala for 30 years. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I really admire his work and his philosophies about helping people find this important feature for their home.
My dad always did this advertisement that I thought was kind of cheesy as a kid but have grown to realize is true. The line is “people always spend a lot of money on copies of Persian rugs but they could afford to have the real thing for less.” Working in the mainstream rug business for the last six years, I really see that to be true. I want to continue my dad’s approach here in Portland to help people connect with a better product.
2. How will you be finding your rugs? Will you be following your dad’s lead when it comes to sourcing?
Initially, the plan was to go to Iran and purchase a container, but the recent political climate has forced us to change our game plan. The new plan is to use the connections I have made throughout my lifetime doing business with my father as well as my own experience in the rug industry. We will still be sourcing directly from our contacts in Iran and the Middle East, we will just have to go about it a bit differently.
There are not a lot of people sourcing directly from Iran. Most stores are buying from wholesalers, so they must add more of a markup to make a profit. I have a very different business model, where I will sell a higher volume at an excellent value and not have to pay a wholesaler. The other benefit is that I get to personally select the rugs and find things that I really like and that my clients will be excited about as well.
All the rugs that we sell are hand knotted pieces which I have acquired over the last ten years of collecting. I’ve also found rugs in thrift shops and online, but that takes a lot of patience. You must know what you are looking for and be persistent. We hope to alleviate some of the headaches for our clients but still get them the great result of a beautiful, one of a kind piece.
3. How long have known you wanted to start this business?
About four years ago, I became way more serious about what I wanted. I started kicking around the idea that I could have my own business and I thought maybe it would be an antique store with all sorts of found objects everywhere. Not a lot of my friends thought that was a successful idea so I never did it.
In the last year, I woke up and decided that if I had a store that specialized in rugs and sold to my friends and their friends and had decent foot traffic, then it would be successful. I think there are many parts of my business plan that appeal to a newer type of consumer. There is a push for long lasting quality over disposable quantity.
I think this is relevant for younger generations who are emphasizing reducing waste. Instead of buying something that’s just okay for now and replacing it when you have the money and drive to find something better, take the time you need to find something you really love, that is timeless and you can keep forever. Our goal is to make that an affordable option by working with consumers to find just what they want. It may take longer but is so worth it and less wasteful in the long run.
Buying a rug is a really grown-up purchase. It makes your space feel like home. It increases your seating and is luxurious to walk on. It’s a physical and emotional change to the room.
As the population in Portland continues to increase, there can be other upsides to rugs as well. They are amazing for sound insulation. If you live in a condo or an apartment it can really cut down on the noise for your downstairs neighbors and help stifle some of the sounds you may hear coming from them as well.
4. Your business is offering a unique service based on requests. Can you tell me a little more about that? Do you know anyone else who does this?
Nobody that I know of really asks people what they want. People come in and start shopping around and if they’re not seeing exactly what they have in mind, a salesperson may come in and try to sell them on something else. They may get talked into purchasing something that they don’t necessarily want.
I want to help people find what they are looking for. If they have a clear idea of what they want, they can show me examples, draw it out, bring color swatches, let me know the size and their price range and I can find the rug that fits. It may take a little bit but it will generally be faster than if they look themselves, as I know the market and where I am most likely to find what fits their needs.
When you are rug shopping, it is a clever idea to explore your options. All store owners have different tastes and you may be limited by their inventory. That being said, if something grabs your attention, even if it’s not what you thought you wanted, give it a shot. It might end up being great in your space. We offer a 24-hour trial period prior to purchase. Take it home. Feel it out. You shouldn’t have to keep something you don’t want to live with forever.
5. What would you say is the goal of your business?
I think my goal is to make the prospect of purchasing a rug more approachable. It’s important for people to know that at any stage in life you can have a home you love. Comfortable furnishings are not out of reach. If you just spent money on a home purchase, that initial anxiety and sticker shock can make it feel like you don’t have the money to nest and customize your home. Having an affordable option like a rug to upgrade your home is a great first step.
I think the overall assumption of Persian rugs is that they are expensive and out of reach. My goal is to set the prices so that they are attainable. The same amount of money someone might spend on a rug that is just tolerable from a department store could buy them something unique and timeless.
These rugs are made to last. They are handmade with fibers that age beautifully. We want people to know that these heirloom pieces are not out of reach just because you may be at a point in your life where you don’t have a big budget for decorating your home. You can own nice rugs and not go broke. Alexandra came up with a great catchphrase for the business “Rugs for Everyone”, and we have a new one, “You Can Afford It”. Now that we have a brick and mortar, I want to put that on the windows instead of “Sale” or “50% Off.” I want to have statements that invite people to feel welcome and know that they can leave with something they will love without stressing their budget.
Persian rugs are full of history and can be functional art. A quality Persian rug will become even more attractive as it ages. We even use old rug remnants to frame and hang on the walls. Even when they cease to be comfortable they can still enhance your space.
Bonus Question 1. Are there any significant changes coming up in your company that customers should be aware of?
Yes! Ahead of schedule, we’ve opened our brick and mortar!!
We opened April 1st at the corner of SE 32nd and Belmont (3150 SE Belmont, across from Cricket Cafe) and we’ve been working hard to broaden the spectrum of products we carry. In addition to gorgeous one of a kind rugs, we are now offering unique vintage furniture, handmade pottery, and crafts, and have been collaborating with a fellow small business owner in vintage dresses, jewelry, and accessories.
We’re so excited to host everyone for our GRAND OPENING EVENT tonight (April 21st) from 6 – 9 pm. Stop by for a toast to the future!
Thank you for this interview and the opportunity to talk about our passion. To all the readers, we hope to see you soon!
To find the perfect rug for your home be sure to follow the adventures of this new rug shop on Facebook, Instagram, and of course be sure to check out their website! I also recommend browsing their social media for some serious design inspiration! Definitely, check out their brick and mortar when you are in the market for a rug (Paris Group Realty blog readers mention us for a 15% discount from now until May 15th) and be sure to tell Alexandra and Omar we say hello!