Ending Overseas Child Labor is Part of Rug Merchant’s Plans

GoodWeave Rugmark

The Press | March 2005
By Lori E. Switaj

In 1987 Hamid Wardak, an Afghan physician, fled his war torn homeland, becoming a refugee. The Kabul native spent several years in Pakistan and realizing the country offered little future for his children, immigrated to the United States in 1993. His brother Najib, who followed the family business of rug making, relocated here in 1997.

Hamid spent 10 years working within the rug industry before opening Abraham & Bros. Oriental Rugs Imports & Services in Avon Lake with his brother, who has 28 years of experience in Oriental rug repair and restoration.

The name may be a bit of a misnomer. The company located at 114 Moore Road next to the Lighthouse restaurant, offers handmade, or “hand-knotted” wool and silk carpets from China, but also India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.

Actually aware of child labor issues prominent in India, Pakistan and Nepal, Hamid said he seeks out “RUGMARK” labels when purchasing from overseas.

“RUGMARK is a non-profit corporation in Washington DC. They have been trying to stop illegal child labor and guarantee rugs with their sticker have not been made using child labor.”

Abraham and Bros., named after Hamid’s children including his youngest son, Abraham, donates a percentage of a RUGMARK rug’s sale back to the Washington agency to help with child welfare including food and housing.

“They are trying to take the children from looms to schools,” Hamid said. Hamid, who lives in Hudson said he selected Avon Lake for a storefront for several reasons. He like the proximity to the lake and appreciated the housing expansion in Avon and Avon Lake.

Although Abraham & Bros. is by Hamid admission “a small company,” he said they are now ranked #1 in repair and restoration or Oriental rugs in Ohio and neighboring states.

Unlike the mass-produced machine made rugs found in department and home improvement stores, Hamid notes their rugs are selected for uniqueness and quality.

“Those are made of acrylic and man-made products by machine,” he said. “They are not true Oriental rugs. Our rugs are all hand-knotted an unique.”

The work that goes into making one rug is tremendous.

“It takes two people six months to make this rug. Really, each one is its own piece of art.

Standing among piles of colorful rugs, he shows the difference between rugs, including tribal and casual and nomad rugs.

“There is a difference in rugs from every city, every village and every country. Each is a different quality.”

His store is stacked with the carpets, ranging from smaller “prayer rugs” to large room-size rugs. The collection includes fine Persian silk and wool rugs made in Iran and China and wool rugs from Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.

He recently began contracting with an Afghan rug maker who was one of 3 million refugees displaced by the Taliban. The man recently set up a small operation after returning to “a much more peaceful” Afghanistan.

The quality of each rug is reflected in the price. Abraham & Bros. carpets range from under $100 for a simpler piece to $15,000, including a sizable collection of pieces in the $400 range. Products are fully guaranteed and Hamid said their price is generally 20-30 percent lower than competitors.

Najib, who lives in Stow with his wife and two children, completes repair and restoration work on-site. A recent visit to the store noted a repair and restore project on a 100-year-old heirloom carpet, that had a one-foot hole in it. After several months of row by row replacement, the hole is almost completely repaired with a new work indiscernible from the existing rug.