The Navab brothers definitely know what's underfoot in their community, and not just because they sell Oriental rugs. Sitting with Farzan and Sam Navab on a summer evening at a popular South Minneapolis coffee shop, it's clear the brothers and their store are woven into the social threadwork of their neighborhood. A woman walks by, waving. "How are you enjoying your rug?" Farzan asks. They chat. She promises to stop in soon for a visit. Later there are more passersby, more waves and friendly hellos. "When we go on buying trips, we're choosing rugs for our neighbors," says Farzan, the younger of the duo. "We know what their houses are like because our houses are much the same."
Despite the Navabs' dyed-in-the wool attitudes about family and community, their Oriental Rug Company at 50th and Bryant is anything but a quaint neighborhood boutique. The lavishly renovated space is packed with exotic new and antique rugs from countries such as Pakistan, Tibet, and their native Iran. The brothers find their wares on trips to rug-weaving nations (such as Turkey) and to many European cities, where they hand-select each piece with the eye of an expert.
The Navabs aren't new to the world of fine things. They were taught early on to appreciate art and beauty, growing up as the sons of one of the best-known poets in Iran. They left their country in the mid-'70s, before the Shah was deposed, traveled abroad, then eventually landed in the Twin Cities.
This fall Sam and Farzan will celebrate their 10th anniversary in business. Over the last decade, they say, they've seen preferences of rug buyers shift from bright jewel tones and intricate patterns toward simpler, earth-tone rugs made with subtle vegetable dyes. But however tastes change in the future, the Navabs are proving that building a community foundation is a style that will always be in fashion.
Midwest Home & Garden, October/November 1998. Used by permission.