Fiber Optics

At Portland’s Mougalian Rugs showroom, you’ll find hundreds of soft textiles, from punchy contemporary designs to classic hand-knotted Persian rugs.

Back in the 1970s, Mougalian Rugs mostly sold one kind of textile: the heavy wool, blue-and-red traditional Persian Oriental rug. You know, the kind of rug you’ve seen in stately mansions and on library floors (although some of those are likely knockoffs of painstakingly handcrafted originals). These days, the industry has evolved, says Randall Mougalian, who co-owns the company with his wife, Beth. “Trends are changing constantly now,” he says. Interior design styles, he explains, shift quickly, and colors come in and out of fashion, and thanks to the proliferation of design websites, his customers are more tuned in than ever.

Fortunately, this nimble business has been able to go with the flow. Inside the showroom, located in a large warehouse-like space in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, rugs of all colors, sizes, and patterns line the walls and the floors. There are contemporary geometric rugs in sage green and powder blue, intricately patterned paisley rugs in light gray and pale pink, and even a rug adorned with a growling orange tiger. As I dig through the soft piles, I see every color of the rainbow, from emerald green to mustard yellow (and, of course, the distinctive dark reds and blues of those old-school Oriental rugs, which remain popular even in today’s fast- paced design world).

“I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t really see color online—not like you can in person,” Beth says as we flip through the rugs. “This kind of rust color looks red on some computer screens,” adds Brett Mougalian. He’s the next generation of the business, and he’s been working alongside his parents for years. He currently works in sales and customer service, the latter being a particularly important aspect of the Mougalian business.

When asked what sets the company apart, Brett is quick to answer: “You can go anywhere in the country, and you won’t get the service we provide here.” The Mougalian team makes house calls to help customers measure their space, choose ideal colors, and even pick out wall paint that will go with their rug. They even deliver rugs to your door for trial runs. If you like a rug (or two, or three), Brett will bring it to your house and let you live with it for a few days, so you can see how it looks under different lighting conditions. “My grandparents have always done that, and it’s never been a service we charge for,” he says. “All rugs change under natural light. Sometimes, a rug you love in the shop will look completely different once you take it home.”

Brett also steers customers toward rugs that work for their lifestyles. For example, homeowners with dogs and small children are better off with a rug woven from wool rather than silk, because wool is more durable and easier to clean. If the rug is going into a high- traffic area, both Brett and Randall advise staying away from lighter weight textiles, a category that includes kilim rugs. “We’ve only recently started carrying kilims,” Randall says. “We never liked the quality of them before, but now we’re getting much heavier and better made kilims.” With larger knots and thicker weaves, these formerly lightweight designs finally pass muster with the Mougalian crew—although they still recommend putting these rugs in areas that get less foot traffic, like under a dining room table or a bed, which can help anchor them in place.

This kind of relationship-building advice has been built into the business model since day one. As a locally owned family business, there’s nothing the Mougalians treasure more than long-term clients. Brett recalls one woman who visited the store in January. “She had bought all her rugs from my grandfather 40 years ago,” he says. “And she came back with her daughter, looking for rugs for her first home.”