AN INTERVIEW WITH HOOSHANG HARVESF
The owner of Hooshang Oriental Rugs, the longest-running business in Avondale, talks about his trade and why there are no American rug-makers
Folio Weekly: How did you get into Oriental rugs?
Hooshang Harvesf: When you're born in Persia, the first thing you see when you open up your eyes are rugs. It's in the blood. If you're rich, the rugs will be very nice; if you're poor, the rugs, not so much. But no matter where you're born, you see rugs.
You deal with Oriental rugs even though you have a PhD in economics?
My father always told his children to get your education first then get what will please you. Then you have something to fall back on. I did what he wished.
So when did you decide to go into rugs?
Even before getting my PhD, I knew what I would be doing. I never, ever have regretted going to school. I liked what I did. I like that I pursued his wish. But all throughout school, I knew what I really wanted to do.
Your store has a long history.
I opened this shop on Sept. 15, 1977. Longest-running business in Avondale. And by that I mean the same owner, same business, exact same spot in Avondale. I take pride in that fact.
What exactly is an Oriental rug?
To me, it means it's hand-knotted and comes from anywhere in Asia. The only exception to the rule is kilim, which is a flat weave. But it's still hand-woven and still considered an Oriental rug.
Do they have to be made of specific material?
All are made of natural fiber. Wool, silk and cotton. Nothing else.
Do you feel that Oriental rugs are an art?
Oh, yes. I didn't coin the phrase, but it's art under foot. It's like looking at a picture. You feel it. You can see movement.
Why do Oriental rugs cost so much?
This is a labor-intensive product. By that I mean the cost of labor is more than the cost of the materials. The more time it takes to make the rug, the more expensive it becomes. What determines the value of the rug is the number of knots per square inch, quality of wool because there are seven or eight types, complication of design, balance between color and design, and some factors like where the rug was made, who made it, the rarity of the rug — that all comes into play.
Do they have to come from a specific area to be considered authentic?
Persia, Pakistan, India, China, Turkey, Romania and Afghanistan. And if you compare the best of each country, Persia is the best. That's a fact, not an opinion. If you compare the medium-level Persian rugs to the best rugs from China, the Chinese rugs will obviously be better. But when you compare the best each country has to offer, Persian is the best.
How is that a fact and not an opinion?
The proof is in the pudding. When you look at it, you can tell.
Are there American rug-makers?
No. This is labor-intensive. It takes a long time to make a good rug, and labor is expensive here. That's why Oriental rugs come from overseas. It's not because we can't do it here, it's because we can't pay to do it here. The labor isn't cheap.
How long has rug trading been around?
The rug industry is as old as civilization. In 1949, an archeologist named [Sergei Ivanovich] Rudenko discovered a rug called the Pazyryk Carpet which dates to 500 BC. It's kept in a hermitage museum in [Saint Petersburg, Russia].
Is there a big demand for Oriental rugs in Northeast Florida?
There's still a lot of appreciation for it. Because of the economy, things are not as good right now. But we're doing well and we're still here.
How can the average shopper identify an authentic rug from a phony?
Since there's a lot of money involved, they should trust the person they buy it from. There's nothing more dangerous than knowing little about something.