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DARCHANG CARPETS WOVEN IN FRIENDSHIP; THIS RUG BUSINESS IS PERSONAL.

NEW YORK-Businesses and careers can stem from years of careful preparation and planning or can result from coincidental happenings.

Darchang Imports, designers and manufacturers of Tibetan rugs, began as an act of kindness.

In 1966, Frank McGee, a doctoral student at Syracuse University, was working as an International Student adviser, when he met Surendra Man Joshi from Nepal. Surendra had come to to enter the master's program in Public Administration, arriving with his wife and infant son, unprepared for life in the United States.

"They weren't used to our ways: cars, shopping or housing," remembered McGee. "My wife, Rachel, and I stepped in to help guide Surendra and his wife, Jaganti, and get them settled with their baby, Anuj."

The families soon became friends. At the same time, Surendra's employer, then Crown Prince Birendra of Nepal, was studying at Harvard. Just as Surendra was finishing his masters program, he was called to return to Nepal with the crown prince because the king was ill. Birendra became king when his father, King Mahendra, died in 1972. Surendra became Master of Ceremonies, the administrator of court functions, until his recent retirement.

The McGees remained in contact with the Nepalese family.

The couple had promised Surnedra and Jaganti that when the time was right, they would attend Anuj's wedding. When the invitation to the wedding arrived about seven years ago, they decided to keep their promise.

In Katmandu, the McGees were drawn to the handwoven rug business. "Surendra's `cousin brother' was an agent in the rug trade, so first we became casually involved," Frank McGee explained.

Rachel McGee has a background in interior design; Frank McGee had a career as a in teaching and public works administration. Both were then considering what the next phase of life might hold. Frank McGee said, "We knew that we wanted to stay active."

It took about 18 months of discussion and thought to decide to get serious about rugs in Nepal, he said. The McGees started in 1994 and sold a few rugs in '95. By 1997, both McGees were working in the rug business full-time.

At first, the McGees worked with a contract manufacturer for about a year and then invested with their old friend Surendra in the Darchang factory, which is run like a family or cottage business. About 40 weavers, full- and part-time, work at the looms. Darchang provides room, board, medical service and opportunity for schooling for the weavers and their families, Frank McGee explained. Darchang is certified by Rugmark International that no illegal child labor is used at the plant; the rugs all carry the Rugmark label.

Darchang's yarn is a handspun blend of New Zealand and Himalayan wool available in a palette of 70 programmed colors. Much of Darchang's production is custom work.

All the design work is either done or supervised by Rachel, while Frank handles the business operations. The line is now a substantial program of designer-oriented, contemporary-styled product. Darchang is bringing in monthly shipments totalling about 500 rugs a year for its customers, mostly designer showrooms and contemporary furniture stores. Darchang, with its U.S. base in Pembroke, N.H., can be seen at the Atlanta Area Rug markets and High Point.
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Comment:DARCHANG CARPETS WOVEN IN FRIENDSHIP; THIS RUG BUSINESS IS PERSONAL.
Author:Herlihy, Janet
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 28, 1999
Words:535
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