By Anna Yoder | Columnist
The first time I visited the home of my future husband, I was taken aback at the collection of fine, handmade Persian, Oriental and kilim rugs gracing the floors of each room. It’s not that men can’t or don’t have good taste when it comes to fine rugs; it’s just, well, my husband is a fairly casual guy. As it turns out, while working in a fine furnishings store during high school, he cultivated an affinity for handmade wool rugs and started collecting them. Once married, we expanded our collection.
Over the years, we hand cleaned our smaller rugs and dried them over a sturdy clothesline; yet, it was the larger area rugs which were the challenge to clean. Although we tried our best in the past to clean the larger rugs, it was time to turn to an expert to get them really clean — but whom?
A good friend of ours — who is a long time and knowledgeable resident of the Northside — suggested a place in Spring Garden. We drove over to take a peek and discovered an unassuming warehouse that is a true hidden gem.
Since 1900, Northside Carpet and Oriental Rugs has been tucked away on Constance Street. As owner Ken Ashtari claims, there are very few businesses that can boast of “having the same business, with the same name and at the same location” for that long of a period of time! Northside Carpet was originally owned by two individuals, then sold in 1950 to another couple who in turn sold it to a single individual from whom Ken purchased it in 2013.
Ken also has two other store locations: one in Squirrel Hill, which sells fine rugs and is run by Ken’s son, and the other in Mt. Lebanon, which sells fine furnishings. However, Ken is not new to the fine furnishings and rug business. The only certified fine rug appraiser in the Pittsburgh area, Ken was the owner of Linder’s Fine Furnishings & Rugs in McKees Rocks, which is now closed.
What makes Northside Carpet unique in its approach to rug cleaning? First, Ken emphatically explains that his unique process is not “cleaning” but rather its “traditional washing.” Yes, with lots of mild soap and water. Ken explains that “any handmade rug [even silk!] can and should be washed with water” to thoroughly and effectively clean it.
Northside Carpet also uses no deodorizers or chemicals to harm your valuable rugs. Having my own rugs cleaned at Northside Carpet, I was very interested in seeing how it was done. Ken and employee Ryan Mitchell enthusiastically offered to give me a tour of the entire process.
Ken and Ryan began by hand washing the rugs on the first floor of the really huge warehouse. The rugs were then gently rinsed using a large rolling machine which forced in and squeezed out the water for a super deep clean. The rugs were then hoisted through a ceiling opening into a very large second floor drying room which can house 180 rugs. (Yes, it’s a massive room.) This drying room is temperature and humidity controlled to ensure the rugs dry quickly without bacterial contamination.
It is an impressive process to say the least. Yet it wasn’t until Ken pulled out what he called a “palace-size” rug (12 feet by 26 feet) to clean that I was astonished that such an enormous rug could be “washed” using his technique. Yet this is not the largest rug Ken has handled. The largest rug that Ken worked on was a 19 feet by 38 feet irreplaceable, heirloom carpet (and of “extremely high monetary value”) and for which he had to take out a $1 million dollar insurance policy to work on.
After washing and repairing it, Ken’s team delivered and placed the valuable rug in the original home for display. This leads me to the pick-up and delivery service Ken also provides which is called “lift and lay”. With the “lift and lay” service, not only will Ken’s team pick up and deliver your cleaned rug but will move any furniture to access the rug and
upon return, will again move your furniture to place the rug in its original location. And if you want to save a couple of bucks, opt for the “drop off” option. This means you deliver your rug to the warehouse and pick it up yourself after it’s cleaned.
This option works great for rugs that are not “palace- sized” and easily transported, or for those who have a vehicle large enough to haul the rugs to Ken’s warehouse. Your bonus is a discount on your total bill!
Ken and his dedicated staff not only provide expert rug cleaning, but also offer in-home wall-to-wall carpet, upholstery and drapery cleaning, along with rug appraisal, and on-site rug repairs carried out by skilled, master weavers. The expert weavers of Northside Carpet use “traditional Old-World techniques” to restore the rugs by identifying the type of rug and matching fibers, dyes and patterns to re-create and repair your fine rug.
For rug dealers in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who do not have access to the expert rug care and repair that Northside Carpet provides, Ken’s team travels to those locations and brings their rugs to his shop for cleaning and restoration. We are so lucky to have Northside Carpet in our neighborhood.
My husband and I are extremely grateful to Northside Carpet for their care and treatment of our rugs. My only regret is that I did not take “before and after” pictures of the 18 rugs that Ken and his team “washed” for us. When we re-laid the rugs in our rooms, the vibrance of the colors was definitely enhanced and the rugs looked as bright as the day we purchased them many years ago. With spring cleaning time here, freshen up any rug, carpet or your upholstery and bring vibrant color back into your life! No rug is too small or large for Ken’s team, and you don’t need to travel very far!
Northside Carpet and Oriental Rugs (Northside) is located at 1001 Constance St. in Spring Garden.