By Jack Rubinger
Abbasi Fine Rugs, the only Persian rug shop on the east side of Portland, is located at SE 32nd and Belmont St. but its roots stretch back to ancient Persia.
Omar Abbasi and his partner, Alexandra, are working to bring Persian tradition and heritage here in a way that is accessible and affordable to everyone.
They specialize in antique Persian rugs, but not the typical rugs you find at big box retailers. “All of our rugs are hand-knotted, one-of-a-kind, antique pieces. They are all made using naturally sourced vegetable and mineral dyes on hand spun wool. The intricate workmanship and traditional techniques breathe true in our product,” said Alexandra.
Omar began his career working in his family’s rug business and moved to Portland about 13 years ago. He then spent a few years with a large retailer that dealt with all kinds of rugs. Omar’s passion is in the history and value of older rugs so when they couple felt ready to take the leap, they decided to open a different kind of shop.
“You can literally walk on history” said Omar, who spun a few tales of his own about his rugs’ origins. The shop has rugs featuring the tree of life, rugs created by nomadic peoples traveling with their sheep and a rug depicting a scene from the Persian poem The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, just to name a few.
Omar and Alexandra offer tribal geometric and floral patterns, with rugs over 150 years old from Iran, Morocco, Turkey, India and other exotic locales at an affordable price point and in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
A 4×6 rug, on average, would sell for $150 – $450. A 5×8 to 8×10 could range from $500 – $1200. Larger or more rare rugs may be priced higher, but affordability is always the Abbasi’s main priority. Some are collectible, and all are definitely meant for everyday enjoyment in living rooms, offices, entry ways – even bathrooms and kitchens because they’re so well made and durable.
“Affordable rugs is the mission,” said Omar. “We work with direct importers and we don’t buy in bulk. We select rugs one by one and make sure we only get the pieces we really want. This approach is more affordable than dropping tens of thousands on each shipment. We get new rugs every 1-3 weeks, so shoppers can always look forward to new options.”
One thing that comes to my mind when I think of Persian rugs is the prominence of the color red. Omar explained that the red symbolizes fire which permeates ancient religious beliefs. A large blue rug, shades of green and bright oranges also stood out during a recent tour of the store.
When asked about their target market, the couple said, “Anyone who has ever wanted a Persian rug is our ideal customer. Many people believe that Persian rugs are not available in their budget and we aim to provide them the opportunity.
“Others have collected before and are looking for that special piece to further their appreciation for the art form.”
They find that their clientele are eager to learn about the history, craftsmanship and culture. The couple love to share their experience and knowledge with everyone.
Omar explained that people usually look for rugs when they’re moving to a new home, when they see the need to make a change or are just looking for something special to brighten up their space.
If shoppers are unsure of what they want, Omar and Alexandra will let people take a rug with them and experience how it feels in their home.
When Omar was a year old, his father left a profession in engineering and started importing Persian rugs and selling them in Guatemala City. He had discovered that their family history traced back to ancient Persia, in which rugs were an integral part of life.
Omar was literally raised on rugs. The passion clicked in him from a young age and he decided to embrace it and be the next generation to carry on this art form.
When he was 15, he worked an exhibition and was offered the option of being paid in cash or with a rug. He’d had his eye on one (rug) and he chose it, feeling that it had more value than monetary compensation. He has it to this day and still feels he made the right choice.
“Every day I wake up and get to do what I love,” Omar says. “I consider that a great success. Keeping up on inventory and getting the necessary exposure with a limited budget are, of course, challenging, but the rewards definitely exceed the challenges.
“Being in SE Portland, in a neighborhood and community we love and getting to pass on our appreciation for this incredible art and culture – that’s what dreams are made of. Our goal is to continue to expand our inventory so that anyone and everyone can find the perfect rug. We’re also online and offer free shipping nationwide.”