Our little Moroccan Rug shop turned 3 this April. Like human infant/baby years the past 3 have been what feel like “the longest shortest time” (also the name of an amazing podcast). Running a small business is invigorating, intimidating and intense. The highs are So high (not just because Marijuana is now legal across Canada) and, the lulls can feel pretty low. It is easy to feel like we are only as good as our last Moroccan Rug sale- but, like the Toronto Raptors, we have to remember to keep our heads down, work hard and focus on the big picture (not sure what the NBA finals are equivalent to in the Toronto-based Moroccan rug business, but you know what I mean, right?)
We have amazing local and long-distance clients that have been Mellah Moroccan Rug fans since day one. Our sweet and talented photographer neighbour Jenna noticed us the week we opened and pitched Toronto Life on a story about our shop, giving us a great organic press boost. One half of an iconic Toronto-based fashion brand practically drove through our front window after noticing a stunning Zaiane rug hanging on our rack and purchased it on the spot. She is one of those people that truly has the ‘je nais sais quoi’ understanding of good style, is super cool, and is therefore an actual influencer- giving us a great organic word-of-mouth boost. We were even featured in a story in New Yorker magazine about the importance of brick and mortar shops, written by Toronto based word-smith, deli lover and analogue advocate David Sax. We have a roster of super cool designers that get us and get their clients to love us. We have been lucky and we are so grateful. But, as we all know from the oh-so inspiring quotes we see on @instagram (I will save our thoughts on Instagram for another post- it is both a blessing and major pain in the ass for small businesses) “Good things come to those who work their ass off and never give up”. Quick shout out to John for taking the reins on choosing Moneris, Squarspace, and Wave and keeping our books and finances in order, likely the hardest and least sexy part of running a small business. And, anyone that has seen John, YaÏza or I schlep out the 8’ x10’ Beni M’rirt rugs and, or the 6’ x13’ vintage Boujaad, Rehamna, Ait Bou Ichouen or Beni Ourain (pronounced our-aine) rugs knows that running a boutique/gallery-like rug shop is also a hard-core / crossfit like physical labour of love. Vaccuming is also a big part of the job; the struggle is real. Dyson we love you but why won’t you love us back?!
The opportunity to travel to Morocco is a massive upside of owning a Moroccan Rug shop. We go on average 2 times a year. John has had some epic adventures on his solo trips- see his four part blog series “From Toronto to Marrakech” for some more insight. On our first trip- during a 6 month sabbatical we took when moving from New York to Toronto- we had the romantic notion of travelling through the Atlas mountains and desert villages, buying rugs from the women who wove them. We quickly learned how sophisticated the rug business is in Morocco and met a colourful cast of characters, some kinder to us than others, as we were total novices to the Moroccan rug game. Zelda and I narrowly survived getting crushed by a huge stack of rugs at one of the most known-about rug shops in Marrakech. I took a life affirming/ death defying motorbike ride through the souks of Marrakech with one of the best leather makers in the city. We honed our negotiating skills, learned to eat couscous with our hands, hiked, surfed and fell in love with Moroccan textiles. Over the past 3 years, we have cultivated amazing relationships with our vendors/ partners -they are our teachers and have become dear friends.
Sometimes I wonder if everyone who wants a Moroccan rug has already found us. Will we reach new people? Will our existing clients continue to shop with us? Where will our next sale come from? And then, like magic- a wide eyed person will stumble into the store off College St. and fall just as hard for the Moroccan rugs as we did on that fateful first trip. A young couple will make their first ‘ adult’ purchase, a student will buy a small rug or a Boucherouite to give their apartment or dorm room some character and warmth. We will get a call from someone in Rosedale, or Hamilton or Atlanta asking about a specific rug and they will tell us they have been following us on social media and love what we do- the selection we have, the space we have created and the Mellah experience. Who knows what the next 3 years will bring (a Raptors finals win? an impeachment? An AOC win? A solution to our environmental destruction? Countless GOT spinoffs?) Although I have moments of doubt and insecurity, I am confident John and I will continue to bring the very best selection of Moroccan rugs to our little shop at 1090 College St. in Toronto because, you, dear and discerning clients demand that we do!
Please join us to celebrate our 3 years on Wednesday June 5th at the shop (1090 College St.) from 7-10pm; RSVP here.