By Gus Herrera
When you step inside Designer Rugs & Kilims, aka Jon’s Rugs, in Pasadena you are stepping into much more than your typical antique rug store, you are entering an art gallery housing pieces that span hundreds of years of human history from all around the world. This gallery, meticulously curated by owner Jon Erin over his decades of experience, includes over 500 rugs, each specifically chosen not just for their aesthetic appeal or material quality, but moreover for their story and overall artistic impression. No two pieces are the same; each rug is one of a kind. The store is his personal collection, the manifestation of his expertise, which has been carefully developed by years of experience and forged by his passion for the industry.
Erin describes the experience he aims to provide, “I would like to really educate the people who come in … help them get exactly what they are looking for, give them information about the rug they are interested in, give them the history of the piece they buy, and tell them all about it. I like to be involved in their decorating. I try to help people who really are looking for that right rug that fits in their home … that makes a statement in their home.”
Erin’s business strives to develop relationships with customers, a notion that ties back to his origins in the rug business. He discovered his passion for rugs and his talent for dealing with customers during his youth when he worked in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, which houses over 4,000 different shops. Erin applied his language skills (fluent in Turkish, Arabic, English, and French; and proficient in Italian and German) during weekends, summers, and vacations; working as a translator for vendors in the Bazaar in addition to helping guide and translate for tourists. Erin continued to do this, gradually amassing knowledge and cultivating his passion, until he graduated from an American school in Istanbul, Robert’s College, in 1973 with a degree in civil engineering. For a couple of months thereafter he worked in southern Paris designing roads, until he decided it was time for a change. Civil engineering was not providing the social interaction under which Erin’s passion thrives. “Engineering is interesting, I like it, I am good with numbers, but it is completely different from oriental rugs. With rugs you deal with people, while in engineering you deal with numbers,” said Erin. So he followed his heart and opened a rug store with his brother in Istanbul that very same year. Seven years later, in 1980, they opened up shop in Williamsburg, Virginia, and in 1996 Jon’s Rugs was born in Pasadena.
Located in the Pasadena Antique Center (480 S. Fair Oaks Ave.), a building from the 1920s that houses over 50 individual dealers, Erin’s journey in the rug industry has in a sense come full circle: beginning in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and now residing in Pasadena’s own mini-Bazaar.
Designer Rugs & Kilims also provides unique cleaning, restoration, and appraisal services, personally guided by Erin’s recommendations and expertise. For more information or to schedule a time to meet with the rug guru himself call (626) 487-9651.