The Rug Renovating Company - A League of Its Own

The Rug Renovating Company, the oldest rug cleaning business in the United States, was founded in 1896 in New York and has been family owned and operated continuously since that time. The company is currently run by fourth-generation owner Paul Iskyan. 

The company was originally located in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens, moving to its current facility in East Orange, N. J., where it occupies more than 70,000 square feet and has more than 60 employees, about 16 years ago. 


The Moore Co. and the Emergence of New Equipment

In-plant rug cleaning has a long history in the United States and Europe. In the 1950s the U.S. had more than 200 large in-plant rug cleaning facilities. As wall-to-wall carpet gained in popularity, many plants closed. The most frequently used cleaning agent was soap, which was replaced after World War II with synthetic detergents.


Oriental Rug Cleaning Approaches the Century Mark

2005-12-08-2Occasionally, The Rug Cleaning Specialist turns its attention to some of the premier rug cleaning companies around the country, visiting several plants to see what makes them successful. This month we take a look at Oriental Rug Cleaning Co. in Dallas.

H.M. Amirkhan, Sr., was orphaned in Turkey at the turn of the 20th century. He arrived in the U.S. in 1908 at age 19, settling first in Cincinnati, Ohio and serving an apprenticeship with a cousin, H.H. Amirkhanian, to repay his sponsorship expenses. The company, Security / Amirkhanian, still thrives today. 

2005-12-08-4After completing his obligations and learning the craft of rug cleaning and repair, he moved to Texas and established Oriental Rug Cleaning Co. "Our rug cleaning legacy began in 1911 when my grandfather founded the company in Dallas," says President Ellen Amirkhan. "By 1919, my grandfather was prosperous enough to construct a two-story building in which he lived and worked." In 1926, a second building was added, increasing the square footage to 18,000. H.M. Sr. added rug dyeing and rug and carpet sales to the already established cleaning and repair services.

In 1954, H.M. Jr. - known as Mirza - was admitted to the State Bar of Texas. Following the death of his father that same year, Mirza felt the pull of the family business and, with the help of his mother, Norma "Gracie" Amirkhan, took the reins. He spent several years on the board of directors of the National Institute of Rug Cleaning (now ASCR), and during the next 25 years he added carpet, upholstery and drapery cleaning to his business. In 1976, his wife, Inez, came into the business to help temporarily; she will celebrate 30 years in 2006. 

Mirza and his wife hold dear their "10 Secrets to the Success of a Family Business: 
1. Respect for the past 
2. Passion for your work 
3. Financial responsibility 
4. Customer service 
5. Service to the industry/association membership
6. Superior product knowledge 
7. Ability to change 
8. Work together toward a common good 
9. Lead by example, and 
10. Take care of your employees 

In 1980, the couple's daughter followed in her family's footsteps, taking over as president of the family business. A graduate of Texas Woman's University and Southern Methodist University, Ellen Amirkhan, a past president of ASCR, develops and teaches Oriental rug schools for ASCR, The International Society of Appraisers (ISA) and other recognized groups across the United States and England. In addition to instructing and appraising, she consults and serves as an expert witness for the legal profession. Her credentials include Certified Rug Specialist from ASCR, Certified Appraiser of Personal Property with a specialty in Oriental rugs from the ISA, and Certified Rug Appraiser from the Oriental Rug Retailers of America (ORRA).

"Rug cleaning can be very challenging because the subject has so many variables and manufacturers are continually creating new types of rugs with their own special set of problems," Ellen said. "This challenge is not an easy task but can provide a lifetime of fun, a sense of accomplishment, reward and satisfaction that comes with operating a successful business.

"Our business has been successful over the last 95 years because of the family tradition of hands-on training and personally working with each customer to ensure their satisfaction," she said. 

A fan of the hands-on approach to business, Ellen is on the wash floor daily. "I take pride that I can do each and every function of the business from rug washing and repair to payroll," she said. "This is what makes a small business successful - the ability to perform, understand and execute all aspects of the company. This way we have continuity and consistency of service. We are cleaning the grandchildren's rugs of our original customers. If we were not doing the job right and treating them with a high level of service they would not be coming back over three generations.

"Mirza gave me free rein from the very beginning, something his father would not have done for him had he lived. I was never treated as a subordinate but as an equal. He let me change things that I thought could be done better. He taught me everything he knew and encouraged me to continue my rug education in ways he never could. Together, we have carried on the legacy that my grandfather started 100 years ago."


Profile: Carousel Carpet Mills

Carousel Mills is a manufacturer of high-end, all-natural fiber rugs, carpet and tapestries. You may not be familiar with the brand, but you should recognize the style.

One of the few mills not located in Dalton, Ga., Carousel was started more than 34 years ago in the Santa Monica, Calif. garage of founder Max Petrich. Soon after, they relocated to Ukiah, about 110 miles north of San Francisco. Carousel's rugs are private-labeled for several interior design showrooms, though by now you should know that, when it comes to cleaning, it is the rug's construction that counts, not the name. 


Carousel proclaims itself "The Natural Fiber Company" and, true to the name, uses wool, jute, linen, cotton and silk exclusively. Most of their work is custom-made and ranges in price from $65 to $1,500 per yard. The signature look of Carousel Mills is its Casual Trends style (Image 1). This texture is produced on a handloom(Image 2). The wefts (in this case cotton and linen) are the rug face yarns. The texture is the result of hand pulling the weft yarns to create the raised pattern (Image 3). This style can be manufactured in up to 20-foot widths, so you can find it installed wall to wall and in area rugs of various sizes.


Chenille is hot again, both as an upholstery fabric and in rugs (Image 4). The example seen here is cotton and jute, but Carousel also produces all-cotton chenille rugs. Chenille is a yarn with a fuzzy pile protruding from all sides. The name is derived from the French word for caterpillar (to me, the yarn looks like a big pipe cleaner). You can find chenille in wall-to-wall carpeting and rugs.


 Image 5 shows a 60-percent wool and 40-percent jute hand-loomed rug with a pattern created by double wefts in alternating colors.


2004-06-15-4Image 6

When it comes to cleaning considerations, it is clear that cellulosic browning is a big concern. Keep your cleaning solutions in the neutral pH range and look for products that have the WoolSafe logo. Products that display this logo have passed the laboratory colorfastness standard.

Drying the rugs upside down with an air mover blowing across the back of the rug is an old trick of the trade. This will allow any browning to wick to the rug's back, and will not show when the rug is returned to the homeowner's floor (do not have the air blow under the rug; this will result in the browning on the face yarns). In good weather the rugs can be dried face up in the sun. Be sure all cleaning chemicals are completely rinsed out of the rug before putting it in the sun.

Another problem to inspect for is wear damage to the warp yarns. In Image 1, note how thin they are. When exposed to foot traffic they will break, causing the rug to fall apart. Also, check the warps for dry rot, which will cause the rug to disintegrate.

Carousel is also known for custom hand-tufted rugs (Image 6). First, a plain-woven cotton material is stretched over a frame. The design is sketched on the cotton primary backing, and then a pneumatic tufting gun is used to apply the face yarns. After tufting, the rug is removed from the frame and placed pile down on the floor. A back coating of latex is then applied. A secondary backing may be applied directly onto the wet latex to give dimensional stability and protect a wood floor from scratches.

Custom hand-tufted rugs can be cut pile or loop. The loop style is often called "hooked," but a hooking tool is not used for this construction, as a tufting gun is much faster. Hand-tufted rugs are always best dried flat - not placed on a dry pole. Marks or creases can result and may not be correctable. 

Another important cleaning consideration for these products is the possible de-lamination of the backing material from wear and tear or animal urine. All latex contains a filler to reduce cost, like gravel in a concrete mixture. The filler (often marble dust) will take up space, but has no adhesive properties. Too much filler will cause a breakdown of the latex and a separation of the backing from the rug.

Also, keep in mind that the back hems (stitching of the primary backing to the secondary backing) can come unglued over time. This is a potential repair for the rug specialist, and should help reinforce in your mind why it is so important to always inspect the back of the rug in addition to the rug face.

Learn to recognize rugs from Carousel Mills. They can be expensive to replace if the proper cleaning procedures are not followed.


Emmanuel's: Since 1907 and Still Going Strong


Emmanuel’s Rug & Upholstery in Seattle is one of the oldest and most respected rug-cleaning companies in the country. It is a fourth-generation family owned and operated business, with the fifth generation now working there as well. It is also one of the few companies with women owners active in the business from the beginning. 

The story of company founder John Manoug Emmanuel is a familiar one. Born in a small village in what is now Turkey, Emmanuel was driven from that country during the Armenian genocide. He immigrated to the United States at Ellis Island in 1904, and moved to Seattle, where he began selling Oriental rugs. In 1907, he founded Emmanuel’s Inc., specializing in selling, cleaning and repairing oriental rugs, working well into his 80s. His wife Mary was also an expert in rug re-weaving. 

By the late 1920s John’s son Bob entered the business and the emphasis became more focused on cleaning and repair. Bob Emmanuel was one of the key founders of the Rug Cleaners Institute of the Northwest (now the CCINW) and one of the first northwest members of the National Institute of Rug Cleaners (now ASCR). His wife Betty and daughter Joyce were also active in the business. 

In 1970, D.A. Burns & Sons, Inc. merged with Emmanuel’s, Inc., bringing to together two of the oldest and largest rug-cleaning firms in the northwest under the name Burns & Emmanuel’s. 

In the spring of 1973, Bob and Betty decided to retire and sold their share of the business to D.A. Burns, retaining the Emmanuel’s name. But retirement did not suit Bob and Betty, so they re-entered the rug cleaning and repair business in the late 1970s. After Bob passed away in 1986, his daughter Joyce and her husband ran the business. Since 2002 Joyce’s daughter Thea Sand has been the CEO, with her children Ryan and Trista active in the day-to-day operation. 

“Thank God for our employees!” Sand said. “Emmanuel’s wouldn’t be where we are today without our amazingly dedicated family of staff. Barry Weir, our plant manager, has been there since 1978. Lochio Saephanh, our repair department manager, has been with us since 1982. Ying Chang since the late 1980s. Bob Snell, on-location since the early 1990s and Ket Hornthoum on the wash floor. They are our backbone. 

“We don’t have a fancy mission statement. Our philosophy is pretty much the same as it’s always been: To do the very best job we can under all circumstances and to be fair and truthful in our dealings with our clients and employees. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. Clients often tell us that they appreciate our ‘old school’ ethics and service. Good service takes time and we’re not the ‘fast food’ of rug and carpet cleaners. If we can’t do a job the way we feel it should be done, we will decline the work. 

“The future has so much in store! There’s a new generation of rug and carpet consumers to educate as materials and the markets change. There’s amazing new ‘green’; technology that will affect in-plant carpet cleaning like water recycling systems and so on. More things for us to learn about what we do. Very exciting times are ahead.”


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