Carpet shop rolls up after 20 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2006, 12:00am

After 20 years at the same address, Oriental Carpets in Wyndham Street is having its first sale. Then, the iconic shop will fold up its 3,000 carpets and shut its doors.

One of the first carpet retailers to open in what later became the focal point for the trade in fine rugs and carpets, the shop has to close because its lease has run out.

The building at 41 Wyndham Street has been sold and the new landlord plans to refurbish it. All tenants are moving out.

'I've spent all my working life here,' says Rizwan Butt, who began helping his father, Sabih, on the premises when he was a teenager.

'One worry is that loyal customers who drop in to browse around our stock will not know where we have moved.'

Even the Butts do not yet know where they will next unroll their collection of woollen tribal rugs and exquisite silk carpets. Stock comes from remote communities in Iraq and Iran, from Afghanistan, Pakistan and western China.

'When you buy a rug, you not only get something to cover your floor but a piece of culture and history,' Rizwan Butt enthuses. 'Every carpet is individual. Each design and motif tells a story.'

The Butts' story in Hong Kong began in 1969 when Sahib Butt arrived from Pakistan. He came seeking a partner who owed him a large debt. 'I had ordered three shipments of carpets for him and he could not pay,' Mr Butt shrugs.

'So I had to take the carpets back then try to sell them.'

The business prospered. Mr Sabih Butt opened a shop at 42 Wyndham Street and 20 years ago moved across the road to his present premises. It is a treasure trove of carpet lore.

'We often have customers who don't want to buy but who just want to browse and learn,' Rizwan Butt says.

In the search for new premises, a vacant shop was found along the road. But the monthly rental of $130,000 is too expensive for a carpet outlet.

That uncertainty has prompted the first 'clearance sale' sign to hang in the window.

Rumours among nearby shop owners are that the new owner of 41 Wyndham Street, Fame Rise Limited, plans to refurbish the aged premises. Above the shop fronts are 12 floors of serviced apartments, one on each floor.

The building was sold last month for $64.5 million, according to records at the Land Registry.