Fourth generation of family rug business coming to Libertyville
There is a common misconception regarding the colorful and intricate handmade rugs available at Libertyville's newest downtown business, says proprietor Afshin Shabahang.
"There's nothing you can do to ruin it," explains the fourth-generation (third in the U.S.) rug collector and seller. "That's the bad part of our business -- these things last forever."
Shabahang Royal Carpet operated at 535 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago for more than a decade before moving to Wilmette in 1999. The Libertyville location at 528 N. Milwaukee Ave., occupied for five years by Kitch'N & Spice Shop, will be its second in the Chicago area and eighth in the United States.
Shabahang, 33, lived in Gurnee as a teen before moving to Libertyville four years ago. His father came to the United States in the early '70s and opened the first store in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Shabahang inherited a passion for the business.
"I got accepted to law school, but this is what I was born to do," he said. "The beauty is I wasn't forced to do it."
He said he is well-acquainted with the ambience and offerings in Libertyville and has wanted to open a store in town for three years.
"We've worked with some designers who lived here and worked here (and) sold a lot of rugs here," he said. "There's never been anything like this (store) in Libertyville and I don't know why."
While there is a mix of merchants offering home decor and improvement services, artisans and designers in the area, this would be the first stand-alone store of its type, said Pam Hume, executive director of MainStreet Libertyville, a downtown revitalization and marketing group.
"The downtown does not have a specific rug store, so this will add a new dimension to what is offered," she said.
Shabahang said he expects to have 400 to 500 pieces available by the grand opening planned for March 29 and 30. Rugs can be made custom, but there are a variety of standard sizes, he said.
Individual pieces can sell for thousands of dollars, but prices are reasonable considering the product, he said. That's possible because the family makes 40 percent of what it sells and is buying for eight stores, he added.
Rugs come from various areas, including Pakistan, India, Tibet, Turkey and Afghanistan, he said. All are hand-woven, can take four or five months to make and provide a living for dozens of people from sheep ranchers to designers, weavers and others.
"I've gone to places where there's no roads -- you've got to walk to get them," he said of some of locales he's visited in his business reconnaissance. "We even own sheep."
Because of the meticulous craftsmanship and quality, there is no comparison between hand and machine-made rugs, according to Shabahang.
"You have it for the rest of your life," he said. "It's washable, repairable and we do all that, too."