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Tibet Rug Company

Jim Webber: Going to the Source

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Foothill Oriental Rugs and Tibet Rug Company owner Jim Webber is not afraid to travel for the sake of authenticity. Since 1985, Webber has journeyed to the regions and villages where the rugs are actually made and, as a result, has formed long-standing relationships with the local craftspeople. Countries like Persia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Nepal have produced the selection of over 1,000 hand-woven rugs and textiles available in both Salt Lake City showrooms.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Webber graduated from the University of Utah in 1977 and became involved in the rug business after graduation through two friends who owned a retail Oriental store in the area. The friends asked Webber to open and manage a store in St. Louis, Missouri so in 1979 he became their partner and did just that. 

“I understood that, especially in those days, Salt Lake City was relatively isolated geographically and culturally from the rest of the country and had the desire to experience a different part of the country,” Webber said.   

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Although the United States was going through a recession at the time, Webber managed to keep the business going. But in 1984 when his lease came up for renewal he decided it was time to go back home.

“I realized that in order to make my business successful I would need to ‘put down roots’ in the St. Louis community,” he explained.  “St. Louis is a wonderful city but being raised in the mountains I realized that was where my heart was and I moved back to Utah.”     

Webber’s friends subsequently closed their operation in Salt Lake but he decided that since he had paid his dues in terms of understanding retail as well as understanding oriental carpets,  a product that very few people without “old world” roots comprehended, he would try to open his own rug store.  

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“I also decided that instead of buying from wholesalers as I did in St Louis, I would make the effort to import directly,” he added.  

Although at the time this decision was risky, it ultimately would set Webber apart from the rest.   In 1985, with $50,000 borrowed money in his college backpack, he traveled to India and Pakistan to buy inventory. In September 1985 he opened Foothill Oriental Rugs and eventually developed a cotton and a hemp rag rug, which he currently wholesales to rug stores as well as home furnishing stores throughout the United States.    

As if traveling to India and Pakistan wasn’t enough of an adventure, Webber took his exploration further.

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“I had always been fascinated by the mountains of Nepal and since, on my buying trips to India, I was a 45 minute flight from Kathmandu I decided in 1987 to fly to Kathmandu to go on a trek in the mountains,” he said. “I ended up doing the Annapurna Loop – a week-long trek which was fantastic.  But more importantly, while in Nepal, through a mutual friend in Salt Lake, I was put in touch with a family of Tibetan refugees living in Kathmandu.”

This adventure proved yet again to be lucrative because it turned out that the family owned and operated a carpet factory Nepal.

“Before this I was not fully informed regarding the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, with the result of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans fleeing their homeland and living primarily in Nepal and India,” Webber explained. “There seemed to be some very strong karma at work in terms of meeting these Tibetans because I’m sure I was the only person in the world, born and raised in Utah, in the handmade carpet industry.”

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Webber befriended them and in 1991 formed Tibet Rug Company. 

“The idea of this partnership was that I would design and market the rugs on this side and they would run the production on that side,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, Tibet Rug Company is the only Tibetan rug importer that owns its infrastructure in Nepal.  All other Tibetan Rug importers deal with sub-contractors on that side in terms of manufacturing their product.” 

When asked what he enjoys most about his profession, Webber said “mixing with wonderful cultures and creating great designs.”

“Products like handmade carpets are becoming a rarity in today’s ‘cookie cutter’ world,” he explained. “Real people actually sit at looms and tie knots with their hands and the resulting product is not only the finest quality floor covering, it has aesthetic/artistic value as well, and the carpet brings a unique ‘spiritual’ energy to your home.”

Tibetan Rugs and Values Shared at The Scarab

Similar to Webber, Jane and Larry from The Scarab cherish artistic, handcrafted items that bring something special into the homes of their clients.

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“I met Larry and Jane at a trade show in Atlanta and although they are clearly good people I didn’t really appreciate their rug operation until I visited their store,” Webber said. “I see a lot of rug stores around the country and The Scarab is definitely top of the scale. The staff is wonderful and Larry and Jane’s expertise and buying skills are, to the discerning eye, evident in the merchandise in their shop. It is also evident that Larry and Jane care about the wonderful cultures represented by the products in their store. The people in the Vail/Beaver Creek areas of Colorado are lucky to have The Scarab as part of their community.”     

 

 

View our selection of rugs from Tibet Rug Company.

For questions about Tibet Rug Company, please contact us.

 

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