Atef Naeim grew up in the small city of Fouwa in Egypt, near Alexandria.
The whole city contributed to making rugs. My dad sold wool to wholesalers so they could make yarn out of it. After that the yarn would go to the dye factory about five minutes from our place. And in most of the houses and apartments, the first floors were dedicated to looms and people worked them day and night.
Your fondest memories as a child?
After school I would go sit and unravel the yarn for the guys who wove the rugs. I loved hearing their stories. I also loved going to the dye factory and watching how they put the yarn in the boiling water and how they pulled it out with all of the color.
How many years have you been here in Detroit?
I’ve been here since 1984. Mr. Hagopian, who was the original founder of Detroit Rug Restoration’s parent company, Hagopian Cleaning Services, helped me to get my visa. Hagopian has been in business for 75 years and he and my brother, Sayed, worked together in making rugs. Today we have eight weavers/craftsmen in the repair and restoration department in our studio on 8 Mile Road.
Is it difficult to train the art of restoration?
Few people can do the handwork we do here. You need to understand the technique and how the rugs were made to be able to find te best solutions. Most of us grew up with it, so rug making is in our blood, but there are still times where we send rugs back to Egypt if the restoration needs more time to complete.
But I also love sharing with customers the many affordable options for basic repairs and I am always so proud to be able to help find a way to get a badly-damaged rug back into good shape.
What are the most common rug repairs?
Re-fringing, over-edging and reweaving (small holes like one that a dog may have chewed).
Do you personally do the handwork restoration?
(laughing!) Not so much anymore. I am too busy answering the phone and talking with the customers! I manage the restoration studio. I like to be moving and the handwork is very slow and requires great patience.
imagine it takes a little back and forth to come up with the right solution?
Yes. It’s about building trust. Rugs are often passed down through families and mean so much to the owner. Sometimes people cry when telling me their story or when remembering the loved one who gave it to them. I am proud to work for a family company who has amazing customer loyalty and who respects the customer and can deliver on their vision. It means a lot to me that the customers are confident in letting us care for something so precious to them.