Revival Rugs’ Benjamin Hyman says the rugs they source range in age from 20 to 100 years and go through a rigorous cleaning process before traveling to Revival Rugs’ U.S. warehouse.
Good business ideas often originate from some frustration or need not being met, and that certainly was the case for Benjamin Hyman, co-founder and CEO of vintage rug retailer Revival Rugs.
When Hyman was newly married, he and his wife set out to buy a rug for their home.
“We were having trouble finding a rug that we could afford that was unique and had some character to it,” he says.
A trip through Turkey on their honeymoon had them link up with ex-colleagues from time spent working for Samsung in Korea. They learned about their friend Kurt Korkmaz’s business, which involved sourcing vintage rugs from the Turkish countryside and using them to outfit apartments in Istanbul.
“He said ‘Why don’t we start a business and start wholesaling rugs to rug shops in the U.S.’,” Hyman says. “And I thought that there was an opportunity to go directly to consumers with this and essentially not be a middle man, but work with artisans directly in Turkey and then basically supply them directly to customers in the U.S. and Canada.”
This model, says Hyman, means customers in the U.S. and Canada can access vintage and heirloom rugs for less than they would pay for rugs at big-box stores.
“The way it worked in the past,” Hyman says, “is you had the guys that were working with the collector in the countryside who was selling to maybe a middle man in Istanbul, who was then selling to a middle man in the U.S. and then selling it to the retailer, and we thought, well, there’s a lot of steps in that and because of all those steps, you have all these intermediaries driving up the prices for customers.”
Revival Rugs also provides a recycling service of sorts, Hyman says.
“There are a lot of Turkish people who want machine-made rugs from the malls,” he says. “They view some of our rugs as like their grandmother’s rugs. They maybe think they’re a bit older or not on trend and there’s a kind of irony there, because Americans and Canadians really view these rugs as treasures.”
Hyman says the rugs they source range in age from 20 to 100 years and go through a rigorous cleaning process before traveling to Revival Rugs’ U.S. warehouse.
“First, we trim the pile a little bit,” he says. “And then scrub them and wash them three times with a pH balance shampoo so they’re clean when they arrive.”
A lot of them are re-dyed or repaired, Hyman says, and they have a range of styles.
“Our original, vintage collection is probably our fastest-moving collection of rugs,” he says, “because they temper a very modern space. We also sell a lot of distressed and over-dyed rugs as well.”
He says they often get photos from their customers showing industrial spaces with white walls and concrete floors and one of their over-dyed rugs offering a “real pop of colour,” along with some of their traditional rugs in more suburban homes.
“It’s a real mix in terms of our customer set and who is purchasing from us,” he says.
The trend back towards hardwood flooring has really helped their business, Hyman says.
“There’s been an increased demand for area rugs in North America, in general,” he says. “In many places, at least in the States, you have apartments that may have a code where you need a certain percentage of your floor to be covered so you don’t do damage to your apartment floors.”
Rugs also offer an easy way to add personalize a space, he says. “In a sense they are a piece of art you’re buying.”