Photo by Jay Paul
Sally Hirsch recently remodeled her Carytown Oriental rug shop to stay competitive.
It’s been more than two years since William Bernard Hirsch died of colon cancer, leaving his wife and business partner, Sally Hirsch, to run W. Hirsch Oriental Rugs on her own. The couple met on a rug-buying trip to India in 1996 and Sally, who was a rug merchant in Puerto Rico, never returned to the island after visiting her husband-to-be in Richmond.
While Oriental rugs are deeply rooted in tradition, Sally understands that innovation is necessary to stay competitive. “We’ve gone through a big renovation and have added more racks to display more rugs,” she says. “We’ve eliminated the stacks of rugs to make it easier for our customers. We are also having contemporary merchandise manufactured for us ... Cowhide that comes from South America is being finished into rugs in India. They are artful, colorful designs.”
R•HOME: What is an Oriental rug?
Sally Hirsch: It is a rug made in an Oriental country. It can be traditional, contemporary or transitional, but it must come from India, Pakistan, Turkey, China or another Asian country.
R•HOME: How can you tell the difference between an authentic hand-knotted Oriental rug and one made by a machine?
Hirsch: By looking at the back of the rug, a trained eye can tell the difference. We educate our customers on that. Some machine-made rugs come from Egypt, China and Turkey now.
R•HOME: Why is buying an authentic Oriental important?
Hirsch: A handmade rug is typically a longer lasting item. It’s made with quality wool, dyes and workmanship. Oriental rugs last a lifetime and if properly cared for, can be handed down from generation to generation.
R•HOME: What’s the difference between an Oriental rug and a Turkish rug?
Hirsch: Turkish rugs are also Oriental rugs; they are just made in Turkey.
R•HOME: If someone were to take a trip to Turkey or China, is it worth investing in a carpet there and shipping it back? If someone really knew what they were doing, could they get a better price there than here in Richmond?
Hirsch: If you find something you truly fall in love with and can afford it, you should get it. However, I’ve also had customers travel to Turkey and come back to the store and say our prices are more competitive.
R•HOME: Do you still travel abroad to buy carpets?
Hirsch: After my husband and I met on a buying trip abroad, I stopped going and he would go. In January, I will go to Europe, but I will also start traveling to India again.
R•HOME: Having an old Oriental rug seems to almost be a point of pride here in Richmond. Have you seen that?
Hirsch: Yes. We have some old antique and semi-antique rugs here in the store, and a lot of people really love that. We just sold an antique rug to a church because they wanted that traditional well-worn look.
R•HOME: What else do you want people to know about what you do?
Hirsch: We also offer wash and repair services. It takes about two weeks to wash your rug by hand, if you can drop it off to us. The most common repair services are fringe repair, salvage repair and re-knotting.