In Mystic, Davoud Rad carries on family history in rug business
Mystic — Davoud Rad grew up around the loom in Iran, and as hand-knotted rugs were woven, so too were family bonds and community connections.
His father was in the rug business, and Rad recalls going to his cousin's house, which had a loom. The artisans would start four rugs together, he said, and at each rug were two workers and one person sitting in the center singing, "Two blue, two red ..." to keep a steady workflow.
Young kids sat in the back chatting. The rug-makers got money halfway through and then when a rug was finished and ready for the market. On the Persian New Year, the first day of spring, they would use the money to buy things for the children.
"They didn't have TV or satellite," said Rad, 64. He said rug-making was "like here the old ladies sitting on the porch knitting, because they don't want to watch soap operas."
Earlier this summer, Rad opened Rug and Kilim at 5A Roosevelt Ave., between ShaBam salon and Eldred's auction house. A kilim is a flat tapestry-woven rug.
Business has been slow, Rad said, but he gets that prospective patrons want to know and trust him before buying.
Rad moved from Cherry Hill, N.J., to Stonington in March, because his daughter had twins a year ago, and his wife wanted to be around to help. The Mystic shop is an offshoot of Banilivy Rug Corp., run by Rad's cousin, Masood Banilivy.
Banilivy runs another store called Rug and Kilim in New York City. His great-grandfather started the company as a wholesale direct importing business, and Banilivy came to the United States in 1972 as a student.
"After the Iranian revolution, my father had to leave the country, and one of the ways (was) that he had an associate here who was in the rug business, so he started sending rugs here," Banilivy said.
With skyrocketing rents in New York, Banilivy eventually decided to diversify and open a few small retail stores along the East Coast, though not all are called Rug and Kilim.
Rad gets his rugs from Rug and Kilim's warehouse in New Jersey, which imports modern and traditional rugs from countries mostly along the old Silk Road: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, India and China.
Each "dot" one sees on a rug is a knot and smaller knots make for more detailed rugs, much like more pixels on a television screen yields a clearer picture, Rad explained. Rugs with the smallest knots have 220 knots per 10 centimeter, and the fastest workers can make 1,800 knots per hour.
"The wool is a very important part of the rugs," he said, adding that wool cut after wintertime is coarser and cheaper. Rad noted that one can get an 8-by-10 rug for $400, but the wool might shed when touched.
In contrast, he felt the antique rug atop the pile of rugs on which he was sitting and commented that it's "over 100 years (old), and still the rug is soft."
The shop has about 600 rugs. Along with retail, services including cleaning, repair and restoration.
In the new Rug and Kilim location, 8-by-10 rugs start at $1,100, while a large rug hanging on the wall, which mixes silk and wool, is selling for $22,000.
Rad also has a workshop in The Velvet Mill, which he uses for repairing rugs, painting and sculpting.
Rad moved from Iran to the United States in 1970 to pursue an arts education. After going through an English Second Language program in Boston, he said, he completed his bachelor's degree in art studio at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
He then got his master's degree at Penn State University.
While he was living in South Jersey, Rad ran Dada Rug & Art Gallery in Philadelphia, where he taught rug-making classes.
Business: Rug and Kilim
Where: 5A Roosevelt Ave., Mystic
Owner: Davoud Rad
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 2-8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and 12-5 p.m. Sunday
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