Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe
Edward Barsamian, 57, is the end of the line for his third-generation Oriental rug business, but he doesn’t mind that his son is planning to be an attorney instead of carrying on the family tradition.
“The last few years have been extremely challenging for small family-owned businesses like ours; it’s very difficult to control the costs we are being bombarded with,” said Barsamian of Oriental Rug Importers in Lexington. As with many family-owned Oriental rug businesses, Barsamian said he was “born into it; my father did it, and his father did it, but I’m happy that my son is pursuing his own interests.”
The Oriental rug trade is conventionally passed down from generation to generation, because “it’s a very Old World industry, and a non-textbook business where you learn by observation and experience,” said Barsamian. He traveled with his father to remote villages and towns in Iran, as well as established bazaars in Tehran, visiting merchants and bartering for rugs.
“As we like to say, we drank water right from the source, seeing the rugs firsthand,” said Barsamian.
He still has some of those original rugs from these buying trips three decades ago, but as vendors and brokers became the middlemen, it became less necessary to travel overseas. But Barsamian still handpicks each rug individually, choosing rugs from India, Pakistan, Iran, China, Afghanistan, and Turkey.
“I love these rugs for their beauty, durability, and timelessness,” said Barsamian. “The weave is someone’s interpretation of beauty and often reflects a philosophy of life.”
Q: Are consumers losing their appreciation for handmade rugs in this mass produced society?
A: We are bombarded with machine-made and other quasi-handmade rugs, or rugs that look handmade but they’re not. It cheapens the product. Production of hand knotted rugs are down considerably, as weavers, for a whole host of social and economic reasons, leave this work and choose other industries where they can make more money.
Q: What sort of customers do you see?
A: Most of the times, our rugs add beauty and warmth to someone’s living or dining room. But we’ve also sold nice rugs as car mats for automobiles, because people feel that they add pizzazz to their Mercedes, BMW, or Jaguars. We’ve also sold very beautiful rugs for a number of yachts.
Q: What’s your favorite rug?
A: My favorite rug is the Persian Bijar, often called the iron rugs of the east because of their durable wool. It has a classic design and colors, often a beautiful deep blue, soft rusty red, and accents of light green, blue, ivory and rose. One pattern represents a turtle’s back holding up the world.
Q: You still do business with many of the same suppliers that your grandfather dealt with, also family-run businesses?
A: Yes, and it still amazes me that even today, a deal is sealed with nothing more than a handshake. That part of the Old World is still very alive.
Q: Do you sell any magic carpets?
A: Now that gas prices are up to $4 a gallon, I think people wish there was such a thing.