HUNTINGTON — A stack of Persian hand-knotted silk rugs lines one of the walls at Saad’s Oriental Rugs in the 300 block of 9th Street in downtown Huntington.
“These are of the highest quality,” said Julian Saad, the owner of the business. “We have a collection of some of best Oriental rugs in the world right here in Huntington.”
Another stack of 10-by-17-foot rugs are spread out on the floor in the middle of the room. The unique rug store doesn’t offer carpet or other types of floor coverings, just a collection of handmade oriental rugs.
“We are celebrating our 33rd year in Huntington this month,” Saad said. “I opened in September 1988 in the old Coal Exchange Building and moved to this location 10 years later in 1998. This used to be Wise Jewelry. I bought this building and did lots of repairs and renovations so that we could do cleaning services downstairs.”
Saad, 76, is a well-known local entrepreneur and was named the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Volunteer of the Year in 2018. He was also the owner of Julian’s Market, the former Mansour’s Market, located at 1049 12th St. in Huntington before closing it in April last year during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 changed everything,” Saad said. “I even considered closing this rug store in downtown Huntington and moving everything to a mall in Lexington, Kentucky. When COVID hit, I decided the best thing to do was stay put and re-focus my efforts here.”
Today the store carries hundreds of rugs, all hand knotted and from Middle Eastern countries and China.
“These are the finest rugs made in the world and they will last a lifetime,” Saad said.
Saad grew up in a little village in the southern mountains of Lebanon.
“I grew up with rug weavers during my college years in Lebanon,” he said. “I got attached to the Oriental and Persian rugs.”
Saad immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 25 and arrived in Huntington in May 1969. He was an electrical engineer by trade.
“I got laid off and lost my job after 12 years and got another job, but after 16 years it closed down,” he said. “I thought to myself, I have a wife and four young children, I have to do something besides my job, so I went to New York and I started purchasing rugs so I could open my own business here.”
Saad when he first opened he had a small collection of rugs and customers were requesting more.
“At that time the market was changing from wall-to-wall carpet to hardwood floors and business was very good,” he recalled. “I just kept adding to my inventory whenever I could.”
A few years later he opened another story in Charleston in March 1993.
“We did well there, but unfortunately business really slowed down there and we close it about five or six years ago,” Sadd said.
Saad says with the help of his wife, Jihad, and his longtime manager John Frazier, they have been able to keep the Huntington location open.
“People love John,” Saad said. “He is an expert and as good as I am at this business, but some people still like to see my wife and I so we try to be here as much as possible. We are also available for private appointments to show the rugs.”
Saad says the collection of Persian and Oriental rugs he has in Huntington are as impressive as any place in New York.
“I have big antique dealers come here and they are shocked at what I have,” he said.
Saad said the Persian rug is the top seller in the oriental rugs market.
“We have a large selection of the finest handmade Persian rugs,” he said. “No imitations.”
Saad says 2-by-3 feet and 6-by-9 feet 100% silk Persian rugs are the most popular today. Sizes as large as 13-by-25 feet rugs are available as well. Prices range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars.
“I have one rug over here worth $50,000 to $60,000,” he said. “I have all the prime rugs available on the market. I have the top quality Persian silk around. I invite people to come and see.”
Saad some of the Persian silk rugs in his collection are hundreds of years old.
“I have one Persian silk that is 150 years old,” he said. “These are historical pieces.”
Saad says much of the rug industry has now shifted to online, but he thinks most customers like to see the rug before purchasing it.
“The problem with buying online is that I have heard as much as 50% to 60% of the online orders for these type of rugs are returned,” he said. “We have no returns. We have not had one unhappy customer. We will even let you try the rug out and we will deliver it to your home.”
Saad’s Oriental Rugs will also clean and repair handmade oriental rugs.
“We offer great customer service here,” he said.
The store also sells some original paintings, furniture and other antique items. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. The telephone number is 304-522-3898.
“I want to thank the people of Huntington and all of our customers for supporting us over all of these years,” Saad said. “I hope to be here for many more years to come.”