Rug man celebrates family firm's 90th anniversary

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Robert Zakian stands inside his rug-cleaning business in Parkside with rug restorers Fatiha Loudini (left) and Maro Kezelyan. The family business opened in 1923 and moved to its current site in 1940.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Robert Zakian stands inside his rug-cleaning business in Parkside with rug restorers Fatiha Loudini (left) and Maro Kezelyan. The family business opened in 1923 and moved to its current site in 1940.
Posted: July 09, 2013

R OBERT ZAKIAN, 61, OF Newtown Square, is president of Zakian, in Parkside, the area's largest rug-cleaning firm and a family business since 1923. Zakian moved to its present location on Parkside Avenue near 49th Street in 1940.Robert Zakian started working there in 1972, and took over the business after his father retired in 1983. It has 19 employees and annual revenues of $1.8 million.

Q: How have you stayed in business so long?

A: I'd like to take all the credit, but a lot of our success has to do with the demise of the competition. And we bought our biggest competitor about 12 years ago.

Q: What do you like most about working there?

A: Talking to customers. I don't get involved unless it's a big repair job. This isn't complicated: We take your dirty rug, clean it and deliver it back, and 99.9 percent of the time you're elated.

Q: What's the biggest challenge to maintaining the business?

A: In the service business, you're only as good as your employees. We've been pretty lucky because most of our employees have been here a long time.

Q: You've been at the same location since 1940. Why?

A: The machinery is part of the building and really isn't movable. We're centrally located. A lot of my labor comes from the city, and probably half the business comes from city ZIP codes.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: In a sense, everyone is our customer. You can't go into a home where there isn't some type of carpet somewhere, whether it's wall-to-wall or an area rug. Our customer database has about 28,000 names, and we clean about 15,000 to 20,000 rugs a year.

Q: How much do services cost?

A: Most things are done by the square foot. We charge $2.25 per square foot to clean a regular Oriental rug. That's $243 for a 9-by-12-foot rug, and that includes pickup and delivery as long as you roll it up. We pick up, clean and deliver within a week.

Q: And wall-to-wall carpet?

A: Typically we charge $125 to clean them, average-size living room, dining room, stairs and hall. We do furniture cleaning, tile cleaning, grout cleaning. It's hard to find someone who wouldn't have a need for our services at some point in life.

Q: So tell me about this price rollback from tomorrow to July 17?

A: [My publicist] asked if we could do a 90 percent-off sale to celebrate our 90th anniversary. I said we could clean the first rug at the regular price and the second rug would be 90 percent off, which is pretty much the 1923 prices. We thought customers would enjoy it and save money.

Q: What would a second 9-by-12 rug cost with 90 percent off?

A: $24.30. I have to kind of smile when I say that.

Q: Where do you see the business headed?

A: I'd like to be here for the 100th anniversary.


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