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DO THEY LOVE NEW YORK? IMPORTERS WEIGH IN ON THE PROS AND CONS OF CALLING THE BIG APPLE HOME.

NEW YORK-New York City is the capital of many things, and rug importing has long been one of them.

But importers are starting to trickle out of the city -- again. Hellenic is leaving New York for Georgia, and Moosavi traded Manhattan for New Jersey last year. Their moves, coupled with sky-high real estate costs and taxes in a less-than-favorable economy, raise the question, is New York still the best place to run an imports business? Many of the nearly 50 importers based in the city seem to think so.

"New York City is the best place to be for any business," said Farshad Kalaty, co-owner of Manhattan-based Kalaty Rug Corp. "It's the biggest rug center in America, especially the Midtown area."

Most suppliers of new imported rugs are located east of Fifth Avenue between 32nd and 26th streets. And that neighborhood has become an even stronger rug center since antique rug dealers have moved to the area from the West Side of Manhattan, Kalaty said.

Some importers have found greener pastures elsewhere. Some haven't strayed far, setting up business across the Hudson River where space is less expensive. Outside of New York and New Jersey, importers are scattered everywhere, including the South, the Midwest and the West Coast. In Georgia, where real estate and shipping is less expensive, Hellenic will be near other broadloom and hard surface suppliers, a move that suits the company as it expands into these categories.

One advantage to being located in Manhattan is that buyers enjoy visiting the city, said Austin Craley, vice president of sales for Momeni, a Manhattan-based importer.

"You'll see more buyers here than anywhere else in the country," Craley said.

Because many buyers combine their New York business trips with family vacations, buyers often bring their spouses and children with them when they visit showrooms. "It's nice to see another side of the buyer you don't get to see at trade shows," Craley said.

Another convenience for travelers is having three airports to choose from: La Guardia and John F. Kennedy International in New York, and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey. To visit accounts in other areas of the Northeast, New York-based importers have the option of taking a train.

Concord Global Trading is located at 295 Fifth Ave. The importer of machine-made rugs and broadloom from Turkey is at an advantage not only because it is near other rug importers, but also because of its 295 location, where other machine-made rug and broadloom suppliers have showrooms.

"I think New York is a good location, but it's not so good as far as taxes [are concerned]," said Gulben Aksu, vice president of Concord Global Trading. "Taxes are a killer."

The other drawback is warehousing. "A warehouse [in the city] is out of the question," she said. Like almost every other Manhattan-based importer, Concord has its warehouse outside of the city. Concord's is located in New Jersey.

Other importers, including Harounian Rugs International, have warehouses in Long Island.

"[New York City] is definitely the best place on earth for business," said David Harounian, principal of Harounian Rugs International.

Harounian laments the high costs of renting a showroom and his hour-long commute to work. But "if you want to stay in New York, these are things you have to face."

NEW JERSEY IMPORTERS MISS SIGHTS, SOUNDS OF THE CITY

Rug importers who left New York City for New Jersey say it's easier to do business in the Garden State, but are wistful for the "hustle and bustle" of the city.

The main beachhead was established nearly two decades ago, when a group of importers led by Jon Ansari, then president of a rug company named Amiran, had the idea of building the Oriental Rug Importers Center of America in Secaucus, N.J.

"It was a daring thing to do because then rug importers thought they had to be in New York City," said George Bashian Jr., president of Bashian. "He was really thinking outside the box to get a group of rug importers together. They had to overcome their suspicions of leaving New York and being in the same building as their competitors."

The importers went to New Jersey because they needed more space and better access to unload trucks. Bashian, whose company had been in New York City since the 1930s, moved to ORICA in 1988.

With additions over the years, the building has grown to about 320,000 square feet and 30 importers. Some of the original tenants, like Nourison, moved on to open even larger headquarters.

Although he said the company's growth wouldn't have been possible without the move and that he would never go back to the city, he does "miss the bookstores, the shoeshines, the hustle and bustle of the streets."

Gene Newman, president of Noonoo Rug Co., also moved a longtime New York company to ORICA in 1990, when rents were skyrocketing and the company needed to expand. Although the New Jersey location is a "ghost town" in that there is no walk-in traffic, life is easier for importers, he said, with 10 loading docks and conveyor belts to bring in rugs. "It's very quiet and peaceful here," he said, "But I do miss New York, especially the restaurants. Here you have to get in your car and drive to a place to eat."

Jennifer White
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Title Annotation:rug importers
Author:Honores, Crystal; White, Jennifer
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Aug 18, 2003
Words:890
Previous Article:IMPORTS CONTINUE AS SOURCE OF GROWTH.
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