February 2, 1996
Import company goes from rugs to riches
LIKE the Oriental rugs they import, G.A. Gertmenian and Sons have a rich tradition.
Constantine Gertmenian found the import rug company in 1896 after coming here from Turkish-Armenia. After spending 22 years in Binghamton, New York, Gertmenian moved his family to Pasadena in 1917, where they still live today.
Gertmenian established his import business in Los Angeles. Today, 100 years later, they import approximately 200,000 Oriental rugs per year selling them to small specialty stores and large retailers across the country."
Tom Gertmenian, Constantine’s grandson, currently runs the family business with his younger brother Don. Both still live in Pasadena. Tome Gertmenian said keeping the business open for a 100 years has required an ability by everyone involved to adapt.
The company has survived a lot, from the Great Depression to the political upheaval in Iran,” Tom Gertmenian said. “The depression nearly ruined the business, in fact my grandfather was advised to file for bankruptcy.
He didn’t, and eventually he paid off his debts while keeping the business going. Keeping the business going has been a challenge at time, but the business is something we’re all proud of.
Gertmenian’s father, Harold, took over for his father in 1937. Between World War II and the invention of wall-to-wall carpeting, business was slow, but somehow the family held on.
One way they generated income was to buy antique rugs from estate auctions and export them to countries like England and Germany. At one point, 50 percent of business was in exporting.
But the 1960 brought a new appreciation for the hand-crafted rugs the Gertmenian’s import, bringing financial success no seen since before the depression.
By the mid 70s we got out of the exporting and focused solely on importing,” Tom Gertmenian said. “Through the 70s a lot of our rugs came from Iran, but then came all the political trouble and we stopped importing from there.
We increased our efforts in India and went to China. Today, 80 percent of our rugs come from China and the rest from India and Pakistan.
When the business was first established, their rugs were considered high-end luxury items.
Today, because rugs can be produced more cheaply, Oriental rugs are affordable to everyone.
“Our customer base is much broader now,” Gertmenian said. “You can get a top quality, six-by-nine rug for $200.”
John Pashgian, former owner of Pashgian Brothers rugs in Pasadena, has known the Germenian family for decades.
“We were friendly rivals over the years,” said Pashgian, whose son now runs the business. "Over the years the Gertmenians have done a wonderful job of helping develop develop the Oriental rug market across the country.”
Tom’s sons Peter and Charles are now involved, marking a fourth generation involved with the business.
“There are times in a family business when there are arguments and you have to compromise,” Tom Gertmenian said. “As a family we rely on each other and we back each other up. The business is growing, so if future generations learn to compromise when conflicts arise, the business can prosper.”
The Gertmenian Family, from left, Peter, Don adn Tom are the importers of Oriental rugs.