Monday, June 30, 2008

GOB King Aram Dermentjian will retire this year... Maybe!

Aram retiring after 50 years


You heard it here first! Aram Dermentjian will retire this year!

Forget about all the other times he considered retirement and held a big sale. Forget about the storefront sign that's been posted for many months at his downtown carpet store thanking Sarnians for their patronage.

This is really it!

Over the last 50 years, Dermentjian has proven his staying power through good times and bad in the oriental rug and broadloom business.

Many might say he's been advertising a perennial retirement sale without really meaning to retire. But he flatly denies it.

What he will admit, however, is that he's now 82 and has been trying to take a back seat to the business since 1990. That's the year his son, Diran, took over. At that point, the advertisements started announcing big sales in honour of Dermentjian's retirement.

In fact, for the next 12 years, he says he was semi-retired. But a few years ago, Diran left for Vancouver to pursue another venture and his father took back full possession of the business.

"That's why there have been so many retirement sales," Dermentjian insisted during an interview a few days ago. "I was always thinking about retirement. Yet I never did it."

Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Cathy, you are the first I'm going to tell. I have decided. I will retire this year. Before I was just thinking about it. Now I've decided."

Barring any unforeseen changes, his retirement will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Aram's Oriental Rug Gallery, an institution in Sarnia's downtown since 1958.

Dermentjian arrived in Canada from Greece in 1953. As a new immigrant, he was sponsored by a rug dealer in London and started working for him.

In Greece, Dermentjian -- who is of Armenian origin -- had worked at his father's silk factory and was a trained textiles engineer.

While working in London, one of his customers was Marshall Gowland, the mayor of Sarnia at the time.

"He invited me to Sarnia. He told me it was Canada's booming city with Imperial Oil and Dow," Dermentjian said. "I wanted to open my own store without competing with my sponsor in London so I moved here."

Besides, he said the blue water of the St. Clair and Lake Huron reminded him of Greece.

"I had no money but I had terrific faith," he said of his early days in business.

Initially, he took ownership of Hakimian Rugs on Davis Street.

Sales were always good in the 1950s, he said. "I knew the broadloom and oriental rug business and I'm a good salesman."

Sarnia's downtown was flourishing. Those were the days when all the stores remained open Friday nights and the sidewalks were crowded with shoppers.

Soon, he moved to the corner of Front and Lochiel streets on the riverside and renamed the business Aram's. Ten years later, he relocated to Christina street.

Over the years, the business switched addresses a number of times before moving into the current location at 174, 176 and 178 Christina in 1995.

By that time, the commercial area was rapidly growing in the east end of the city and downtown was struggling, said Dermentjian.

He's always been a strong proponent of getting the bus transfer stations off Christina and building a terminal.

Now, as he plans to retire, the city

is undertaking a major reconstruction of Christina, something Dermentjian welcomes and believes will be good for the downtown.

"I've never regretted a day in this business," he said. "But it's time to retire." He intends to continue his oriental rug appraisal business and former customers will still be able to get their rugs professionally cleaned.

But sales will soon be over and all those proclamations that Aram is retiring will finally come true.

He plans to do some traveling with his wife and enjoy time with his family.

Some may be skeptical when they notice the retirement sales this summer.

But this time, he says he's not just thinking about it. He's decided.

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