Friday, June 22, 2007

THE WATER-SAVER Gregory Kasparian, Turco-Persian Rug Co., Toronto

Turco-Persian Rug Co has a new President, Jessica Kasparian. I expect the same great service and integrity as with her father and his father before him. I first heard about Turco-Persian Rug Co from the late James Mark "Uncle Jimmy" Keshishian A.S.A. "Uncle Jimmy" was America's greatest rug dealer in his day and he recommended the Kasparian's highly.

June 21, 2007



In the cavernous cleaning area of Turco-Persian Rug Co., carpets snake their way through shaking, scrubbing and rinsing machines, while workers attack stains by hand. When this place is in full swing, Turco-Persian can clean up to 200 carpets a week--and wash away more than 11,350 litres of hot water each day, about the same as taking a 14-hour shower. And that's an improvement: Until owner Gregory Kasparian installed automatic shut-offs that close the taps when there's no rug on the line, Turco-Persian used twice the water it does now.

It's hard to believe Kasparian--who took over the century-old business from his father--when he insists financial concerns trump environmental ones. He was thinking about saving energy long before it was fashionable. In the 1960s, an architect who was helping to expand the facilities told him not to bother insulating the building. Natural gas was so cheap, he said, that he'd never make back the cost of insulation. Kasparian did it anyway. "It's amazing how things change, isn't it?" he says.

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And last year, the 69-year-old traded in his gas guzzler for a hybrid Toyota Camry. Then he signed up with Bullfrog Power, the first 100% green electricity retailer in Ontario. Bullfrog's energy mix comes entirely from wind and low-impact power sources, but it doesn't come cheap. At 9.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs 30% more than conventional hydro. Kasparian estimates his company's energy bills have gone up by an average of $450 a month, on top of already huge costs of $1,300.

In the cleaning room sits a new hot-water heating system designed by QuikWater, based in Oklahoma. The system, which cost $35,000, forces water through a series of stainless-steel packing rings that are warmed by a gas burner. The process is 99% efficient--almost no heat is lost in exhaust, and no huge hot-water tank sits in the corner constantly sucking energy. All the fluorescent lights have been equipped with electronic regulators that mean the fixtures consume one-third less electricity. Even the soap Turco-Persian uses, made locally by Sohan Chemicals, is free of harsh detergents.

Upstairs in the drying room, where a couple hundred Persian rugs hang like the flags of fallen empires, the sauna-like air was once vented directly outside. Now, that air is stripped of moisture and recirculated, and incoming air is prewarmed through a heat-exchange system. The upgrade cost Turco-Persian more than $48,000 two years ago. But the company that installed it told Kasparian he'd save $20,000 a year on his gas bills. So far, they're right on target.

Despite Kasparian's efforts, he doesn't tout Turco-Persian as a green company. In fact, he seems keenly aware that it still has a large environmental footprint. Hot water is still a concern, so next on his list of planned improvements are solar panels that will preheat water coming into the building, before it gets to the hot-water tank. He's in the initial stages of calculating whether the savings will justify the cost. But Kasparian will likely go ahead regardless--consider it an investment in future generations. "If we can do it," he says, "anyone can."

--Ken Hunt

World's largest carpet to be unveiled by Iran Carpet

World's largest carpet to be unveiled
Wed, 06 Jun 2007 10:48:00

Iranians have earned $8.6m from weaving the world's largest carpet measuring 5,627 square meters.
The world's largest and most exquisite hand-woven carpet will be unveiled in Tehran in the near future, a carpet industry official has said.

The Managing Director of the Iran Carpet Joint Stock Company, Jalaleddin Bassam, also said the carpet has been woven by Iranian weavers at the behest of the United Arab Emirates.

The company earned 80 billion rials ($8.6 million) from weaving the world's largest carpet measuring 5,627 square meters.

"It will take us three months to install the carpet in a mosque in Abu Dubai," Mehr news agency quoted Bassam as saying, who added his company has since received dozens of orders from the United Arab Emirates.

"Our company is going to weave 24 carpets and two carpet tableaus measuring a sum of 550 square meters for the UAE with a value of $1 billion," he said.

The official added several Europe-based Iranian merchants have also ordered hand-woven carpets measuring more than 2,000 square meters.

"Receiving orders from abroad will bring prestige and profit for Iranian carpet weavers," he said.

Iran exported $364 million worth of carpets last year but its share of the global carpet market is at risk as India and Pakistan move towards producing low-cost carpets for international buyers.

Iran, Pakistan and India are major carpet producers and produce roughly 43, 26 and 24 percent of the world's carpets respectively.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Peter Pap in Fortune Small Business Mag

Rugs to riches
Our experts smooth the wrinkles in a carpet dealer's expansion plans.
Brian O'Reilly/San Francisco
June 7 2007: 11:13 AM EDT

(FSB Magazine) -- AS A SUCCESSFUL DEALER IN ORIENTAL RUGS for more than three decades, Peter Pap has a well-honed sense of the market. These days he's picking up vibes that make him both excited and increasingly anxious. He sees a once-in-a-generation opportunity looming in the business. Back in the postwar boom years, wealthy Americans went on a shopping spree, snapping up valuable antiques, including rugs, in Europe. Now, as those folks die or downsize into retirement homes, their kids, lacking space (or, perhaps, taste) are selling the family heirlooms. Serious collectors all over the world are eager to bid. Pap is impatient to better tap this burgeoning trade and grow his business, Peter Pap Oriental Rugs. But it's not easy.

PAP, 52, IS A SELF-DESCRIBED perfectionist who drowns in administrative detail, from shipping hassles to insurance paperwork. "I do best buying and selling," he says, "but I'm spending 80% of my time doing what others should do." He wants to borrow money to buy rugs, but he's frustrated because banks won't let him use his multimillion-dollar inventory as collateral. Not least, Pap is thwarted by technology. His website ( offers photos of only a few rugs, and images are slow to open, which frustrates potential customers. His showrooms in San Francisco (where Pap lives) and Dublin, N.H., use different accounting programs, which complicates bookkeeping. Staying in touch with important customers is a spotty effort; he doesn't have even a simple customer-relationship-management program.

Admitting he was stuck, Pap contacted FSB for a Makeover, and we assembled a crack team of consultants to help. To conquer administrative hassles, Pap met with Chris Abess, 42, a management expert at the San Francisco office of Deloitte Consulting. For insight into the mysteries of small-business banking, he sat down with Ivan Ruiz, 29, a senior loan officer at Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. And for technical difficulties, Patrick Cook, 40, came from San Jose, where he is chief technology strategist for the Small Business Technology Institute, a nonprofit that helps tech-challenged entrepreneurs.

At a coffee shop near Pap's San Francisco showroom, Abess pulls out a list of questions. Pap, he learns, is one of a handful of U.S. dealers with the expertise and resources to buy and sell the most costly rugs, including some that go for $250,000. (Pap is also a frequent guest on PBS's Antiques Roadshow.) His 2006 sales were $3.5 million, and his business is profitable.

Many of his customers are wealthy art and furniture collectors seeking magic carpets for their well-appointed mansions. But Pap confesses that he often spends more time educating a new customer interested in a $5,000 rug than catering to an old one willing to spend $250,000. "I love fine rugs, and I want other people to love them too," says Pap. "I want to teach them everything." Unlike many brick-and-mortar merchants, he doesn't worry that shoppers will educate themselves at his expense and then hunt for better deals online. Every antique rug is unique, after all. And he will buy any rug back at the original price if the customer finds another Pap rug that he likes better. Pap concedes that he is mismanaging his most valuable asset: his loyal following among the nation's serious collectors. He rarely makes time to call them. He has neglected to collect many of their e-mail addresses. Even if he had an up-to-date e-mail list, Pap lacks an effective online marketing program.

"In the world of antique rugs, you're a celebrity," Abess comments. "And Peter Pap Oriental Rugs has become a celebrity business." However, Pap is violating a cardinal rule: Celebrities even niche ones should never try to manage their businesses day-to-day. Pap needs to hire a marketing manager and an administrator so that he can concentrate on buying and selling rugs. Pap and his marketing manager should analyze the customer list to decide how and when to contact former buyers. Every day afterward, Pap should get a list of customers to call. "And shame on you if you haven't talked to them in two years," Abess adds, only half in jest.

Pap's marketing manager should build relationships with art dealers, high-end homebuilders, design-magazine editors, and interior designers. Other salespeople should take over the time-consuming task of educating first-time buyers. Pap could also add educational features to his website, such as rug FAQs or even a staff-written rug blog. Although customers can view pictures of the rugs on the site, Pap's business doesn't lend itself to remote online sales. High-end rug buyers prefer to touch and feel the product before they buy. The new administrator should handle operations such as insurance, shipping, and finance.

By the time he meets with Ivan Ruiz from Wells Fargo Bank, Pap is itching for a loan to fund his great escape from administrative purgatory. Pap hopes to borrow several million, but not just to add inventory. "I want to ramp up the business with new employees, more advertising, more PR," he says. His collateral: some 1,000 antique rugs, worth several million dollars. Pap leads Ruiz to his basement office. In contrast to the well-lit showroom on the first floor, Pap's workspace is dark except for a few fluorescent lights hanging between the floor joists. Rugs, rolled and tied in brown string, are stacked in every corner. And the un-heated office is so chilly that the bookkeeper is wearing a parka at her desk.

Ruiz is a friendly guy with a lopsided grin, but he makes it clear that he has some reservations about doling out dough. He starts by outlining some basic rules about small-business banking. Commercial lenders will analyze Pap's balance sheet to make sure his business is properly capitalized. "We don't want you to have to sell a rug to pay the electric bill," Ruiz says. Bankers typically lend three dollars for every dollar of equity in the business. Pap is clearly disappointed. He had hoped he could qualify for a larger loan by using rugs as collateral. Ruiz demurs politely. Pap challenges him, pointing out that bankers often lend against buildings or equipment. Why not rugs? Ruiz shakes his head. Banks can establish the market value of buildings and equipment, and they can be sold quickly if the borrower defaults. "We don't have experts who can value rugs," he says, and selling them takes a special skill.

RUIZ SUGGESTS A SO-CALLED 7A project loan backed by the Small Business Administration ( Commercial banks dole out more than $15 billion in 7A loans each year. The loans are available to any qualified U.S. entrepreneur, regardless of gender or ethnicity. If Pap intends to use the money to expand his business, the agency might guarantee the loan based on anticipated earnings, not historical cash flow. Pap is intrigued but noncommittal, so Ruiz offers a few more suggestions. Pap should find a bank he likes and get to know a lending officer. Bankers are more willing to lend to someone they know and trust, Ruiz says.

Later that afternoon, Patrick Cook of the Small Business Technology Institute gets an earful of the dealer's tech woes. "It takes forever for someone to download an image from my website," Pap laments. "When I'm in New Hampshire, I could make a cup of tea in the time it takes to get a reply from the server in San Francisco." Cook is a former manager of technology services for British banking giant Barclay's. He grills Pap about his connection to the Internet and offers a quick solution. Pap's 462K DSL connection is too slow. Pap needs to upgrade to a faster DSL line (cable can be slower depending on local traffic levels). Cook also advises Pap to get a more direct and powerful connection. "Try setting up servers with fat pipes high-capacity connections to the web in several places around the country to speed things up," he says. Firms such as Covad and EarthLink provide this service.

Cook also advises Pap to invest in CRM (customer relations management) software that will help him make use of his customer data. CRM software for small business is an increasingly crowded field, but leading products include Entellium CRM (, Microsoft Dynamics (, and SAP Business One ( He should also focus on collecting customers' e-mail addresses. That would enable him to launch a more sophisticated marketing campaign aimed at the buyers most likely to purchase the rare rugs that are now beginning to come on the market.

A few weeks later Pap reports that he's following up on the advice. He bought a budget consultation from Deloitte: For a small, un-disclosed fee, a Deloitte consultant spent a week with Pap during the Winter Antiques Show in New York City. He helped Pap install software that captured contact data from shoppers who visited his booth. Even if only a few browsers buy rugs, the investment will have been worth it, Pap says. He also asked for more tech help from the Small Business Technology Institute. As for a loan, he plans to work the kinks out of his business plan before visiting bankers. As with all our Makeover subjects, we will stay in touch with Pap, and keep you posted on his progress.


CHRIS ABESS is a management expert who works out of the San Francisco office of industry powerhouse Deloitte Consulting. (

PATRICK COOK is the chief technology strategist for the Small Business Technology Institute, a nonprofit in San Jose. (

IVAN RUIZ is a senior loan officer at Wells Fargo Bank, a prominent commercial lending institution headquartered in San Francisco. (


FSB's consultants provided a wealth of advice for a logistically challenged rug merchant.


Peter Pap Oriental Rugs (


San Francisco and Dublin, N.H.


$3.5 million


Sells antique Oriental carpets.


Pap is swamped with time-consuming administrative responsibilities and technology problems that are hampering his ability to capitalize on a boom in high-end antique carpets.

Our consultants suggested tech fixes and advised Pap to hire an administrator to handle the day-today, as well as a marketing manager to oversee an organized campaign to reach serious rug collectors.

Do you have business advice for Peter Pap? If so, please write to us at We will publish selected responses in a future issue of FSB.

To give feedback, please write to

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

From the May 1, 2007 issue

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Baluch" from the Collection of Mark Hopkins

The New England Rug Society Presents An ACOR 8 Exhibit

"Baluch" from the Collection of Mark Hopkins
I was quite pleased to see that NERS has posted a very nice exhibition from the Mark Hopkins' Collection. Mark has an interesting approach which he discusses in his introduction. He pretty well dismisses the ethnographic significance of the pieces and looks at them as art. The show focuses on a very narrow group of rugs with a large degree of repetition of design elements. While one may agree or disagree with Mark's approach focus instead on the unity and cohesiveness of the collection and seek to understand what an important collector saw in it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hope as stolen rugs mysteriously returned

Hope as stolen rugs mysteriously returned
RUGS stolen from a charity shop trying to raise money to build schools in Afghanistan have been mysteriously returned.

They were dropped off at Saraswati, in Holyrood Road, by a taxi driver who had been flagged down in the street on Saturday, at about 3.40pm.

The five rugs are among the less expensive of the ones taken and worth about £500 in total. However, it has given the owners hope the others may yet be returned.

Ten Afghan rugs worth about £2800 in total were taken during the raid, which took place at some point over the bank holiday weekend leading up to May 28.

It has endangered the future of the charity shop and its efforts to raise money to build schools in the war-torn country.

Dan Gorman, project manager with the Edinburgh University Settlement, which was set up by the university but is now independent, said: "I'm hopeful this is going to lead to us getting the rest back.

"If there's any chance of that happening we've got to hang on to it because we really need to see the others returned.

"I think when the story of the theft appeared in the Evening News it pulled a few heart strings and someone has had a pang of conscience.

"I hope they are now realising the importance of the work that this charity shop is trying to do, and how much it is needed by a small community."

Mr Gorman was not in the shop on Saturday when the rugs were returned.

Instead, it was a volunteer who took them off the taxi driver and before he was able to find out what had happened the cabbie had left.

Mr Gorman said: "There were a few volunteers in the shop at the time. This taxi pulled up, the driver got out, and he had in the back this bundle of rugs. The volunteer did not know the background and did not really know what was going on. The taxi driver just said a woman in her 40s had flagged him down and given them to him."

The rugs have been identified as ones taken from the shop and are still in immaculate condition.

They include two Turkmen carpets, two Kuchi kilns, and another kiln that had not originally been identified as missing.

However, several items, including some expensive rugs, have not yet been returned.

The include a large felt rug, about four metres squared, with brown and blue lines, worth £400, and a large yellow rug with two large red pomegranates in the middle and a surround border of small pomegranates, worth £1040.

Two Zeigler rugs with distinctive stripy designs, worth £380 for the pair; two Beluch Runners - long red designed carpets, which look classically Persian, long enough to sit in a passageway or on stairs, which are worth £400 in total; and two Turkmen carpets, which also look classically Persian, with heavy design work and are mainly red, worth £500 combined, are all still missing.

A £32 bag and six Gudjeri cushions, which have stripy carpet on front, and wine-coloured velvet on the back, worth £48 in total, were also stolen in the raid.

The majority of the money raised through these rugs would have gone to building schools in north-east Afghanistan. However, Saraswati is also selling traditional tribal dresses made by Afghan women and the money from that will go to a charity called Zan that helps women in the country.

Int'l hand-woven carpet exhibit Tabriz Iran in July

Int'l hand-woven carpet exhibit due
Thu, 14 Jun 2007 08:51:44

Persian hand-woven carpet, a distinguished part of Iran and culture, ranks first in the global market.
Big names of the world's hand-woven carpet industry will display their finest carpets at an international exhibition slated for July in Iran.

The Iranian northwestern city of Tabriz, one of the best-known carpet-weaving centers, will host the international event on July 12-18.

Leading handmade carpet suppliers from around the world will join their Iranian peers at the exhibit to showcase their products, IRNA reported.

The exhibition will give Iranian merchants a chance to secure a foothold in international markets and find new customers for their high quality Persian rugs.

Persian rugs are part and parcel of the Iranian art and culture. Carpet-weaving in Iran dates back to 3,500 BC.

Currently Iran ranks first in the global carpet market with a share of 41 percent.

Speaking at an international exhibition of hand-woven carpets on Kish Island in early May, Iran's Commerce Minister said Iran holds a 41-percent share of the global carpet market with export value reaching $400 million in 2006.

Massoud Mir-Kazemi said that over 2,000 active Iranian carpet shops have been identified in Europe and the US and the figure is anticipated to increase

Friday, June 1, 2007

Travails Of Dagestan’s Pilgrim Rug Traders

Travails Of Dagestan’s Pilgrim Traders

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca this February brought big money to some Dagestanis, and a lot of trouble to others.

By Musa Musayev in Makhachkala (CRS No.170, 14-Mar-03)

Embarking on their holy pilgrimage to Mecca at the beginning of February, middle-aged Dagestani couple Ibragim and Aishat Magomedov made do on a very modest budget. They paid 1300 US dollars for the trip, and teamed up with 25 other pilgrims in a shabby old bus. The driver charged very little, but each of the pilgrims also chipped in for food.

The trip south through Azerbaijan was easy, but then the bus got a flat tire and the brakes broke. It took the driver four days to fix the vehicle. The engine broke in Iran, and they had to hire a tow truck to get to the Iraqi border. In Iraq, the engine completely gave out, so they had to hire a tractor.

“We wouldn’t have made it all, but then drivers of three KAMAZ trucks from Dagestan that just happened to be driving by agreed to take us the rest of the way. So we got to Mecca on the very first day of the Hajj,” Ibragim told IWPR.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam and something every practicing Muslim tries to do once in his lifetime. Every February, about two million Muslims from all over the world flock to Mecca.

For Russian Muslims, who have been allowed to make the trip since 1993, the journey is often prohibitively expensive and many try to make back their money while they are in Saudi Arabia.

Fourteen thousand pilgrims from Russia made the journey in 1995, but since then the number has fallen to around 5,000 a year, almost all travelling overland. Up to 80 per cent come from impoverished Dagestan. The Hajj costs at least 800-1000 dollars to make, while the average monthly wage in the republic is only 30-40 dollars.

When on the Hajj, every Muslim is required to forget about his daily worries and cleanse himself from impure thoughts and desires through a succession of religious rites. Ibragim and Aishat, however, could not abandon worldly concerns. “We would have returned without a penny if we hadn’t brought some rugs hand-woven by our daughters. We carried them around even during the rites, until we eventually sold them,” recalled Ibragim.

It didn’t take long to sell the rugs, as Saudis expect to buy merchandise from the Russian pilgrims.

To cut expenses, Russian pilgrims used to travel in KAMAZ heavy-duty trucks, which fitted with side shelves for the pilgrims, while the luggage stayed on the bottom. In 1999, Saudi Arabia banned the vehicles, branding them “uncivilized”, and ordering all pilgrims travelling overland to use cars or buses instead – although the ban has not been strictly enforced.

University professor Murad Kaziev, who went to Mecca this February, met some fellow Dagestanis in Saudi Arabia riding a bus chock-full of merchandise. “I also saw some KAMAZ trucks where people were sitting on the makeshift shelves in the back, and the rest of the space was filled with goods. They were all headed straight for the Jeddah port without stopping in Mecca,” he recalled.

Kaziev said he knows Dagestani pilgrims who have made a fortune shuttling hand-woven rugs from Dagestan, where they cost next to nothing, to buyers in Saudi Arabia. On their way back, these streetwise pilgrims usually stock up on audiovisual equipment, clothes and other consumer goods to sell back home in the northern Caucasus.

Several Dagestani pilgrims reported that one enterprising Makhachkala resident is renting out a warehouse somewhere along the pilgrimage route, making enormous amounts of money by handling Hajj pilgrims’ goods. This year, reportedly, the travellers hawked large quantities of electric drills, tanned hides and woollen socks, which were eagerly snapped up in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“The Koran does not expressly forbid mercantile transactions, but pilgrims are advised to focus on their purification rites during the Hajj,” Kaziev told IWPR. “The trouble is, many of the so-called pilgrims become so involved in commerce they never actually complete their pilgrimage. The traders make money on the Hajj, but religious leaders choose to turn a blind eye to it.”

Big-time entrepreneurs are setting up business alongside the small-time traders. They hire entire fleets of buses or trucks to ship traditional hand-made artefacts out of Dagestan, such as hand-woven woollen rugs or honey.

“In the last few years, especially from 1997 to 1999, about 37 per cent of Dagestani pilgrims were too busy doing business in Saudi Arabia to attend to their religious rites. About 15 per cent never actually made it to Holy Mecca or even Saudi Arabia. They completed their business and returned,” Bikmurza Bikmurzayev of the Dagestani office of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told IWPR.

“There is another problem. Having no knowledge of the local laws in the countries they travel through or in Saudi Arabia, Russian citizens frequently get in trouble there.”

In 2002 alone, foreign ministry officials helped Russian pilgrims win 273 court cases in the countries along the route. All the pilgrims were arrested for selling forbidden goods or otherwise violating trading rules.

Countries along the route have seized hundreds of tons of merchandise - for instance, 30 tons of Dagestani honey is being held in Syria. Dozens of vehicles, which ran out of spare parts, have been abandoned. Several Russian pilgrims are serving time in prison.

Despite their adversities, the Magomedovs are happy they went on the Hajj. On their way back, they joined a group of other pilgrims, who got home much more quickly: their drivers drove non-stop.

Their broken down bus is still in Iraq, and so is the driver. He cannot leave his bus, which is the only source of livelihood for him and his family.

Musa Musaev is a correspondent for Dagestanskaya Pravda newspaper in Makhachkala, Dagestan.