The Manoukian Brothers store on Connecticut Avenue (photo from the 1960s)

Armenian-American Manoukian Brothers Are Among the First Rug Dealers of the Nation’s Capital: Video Report

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WASHINGTON — During the first days of March of this year, in a matter of a week, Virginia’s House of Representatives and Senate passed the resolution HJR 362, honoring the centenary of a rug store in Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In 1922, Manouk Manoukian and his brothers, originally from Aintab, established the Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs shop in Washington Circle in the nation’s capital.

The Virginia resolution commending the 100th anniversary of the Manoukian Brothers rug shop

“They came to the US via Ellis Island,” tells Mikael Manoukian, who a century later supervises the family-owned enterprise located in northern Virginia today. “My great uncle Manouk first decided to set up a grocery shop. Later his brothers Movses, Mikayel, and Nouri joined him,” continues Mikael, Movses’s grandson, who is named after one of his great uncles. Soon the brothers decided to change their business profile and opened what now is the oldest continuously existing rug store in the nation’s capital, in the area where the campus of George Washington University exists now.

The Manoukians would travel to New York and New Jersey and get merchandise from wholesales. They sold carpets and rugs imported from India, Afghanistan, and Persia. The last ones were traditionally more in demand in those days.

“My father Paul, who had a full-time job as a civil engineer, was also doing the rug trade. It was like double full-time jobs. After my grandfather and great uncles passed away, he assumed the store’s leadership in a gradual process. When he retired from his civil engineering position, he still worked in the store,” Mikael said.

The modern-day store in Arlington, VA

In the 1960s the Manoukian Brothers store was located in a building at the intersection of 18th & Jefferson Place NW (Connecticut Ave). After 96 years in Washington, the Manoukians moved their rug store just across the river to Arlington, Virginia.

We toured the Manoukian Brothers shop, which has pictures of great-grandma Vartouhi from the historical homeland, the image of the Aghtamar Sourp Khach Armenian church, and yerakouyn flag. Another photo that drew my attention was taken in 1971. On Constitution Day of that year (September 17), Manoukian Brothers supplied a Persian sarouk for the celebration at the US National Archives. The picture depicts the sarouk lying under the US Constitution. People in uniforms, each representing a branch of American militaries, are standing in the corners. The historical photo also shows how much things have changed ever since, as it would be very unlikely to see a Persian rug underlying the American Constitution at an official event these days.

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Mikael Manoukian continues to improve what was a traditional brick and mortar rug store by expanding its online presence and capacity. The family have been creative in making sure the business succeeds despite economic hardships, whether it be pandemics or economics. The rug-cleaning service and various folk concerts arranged right at the store are among the diverse options that support the Armenian-American enterprise.

The video segments present snapshots of the rug store with Mikayel Manoukian reading Resolution HJR 362 adopted by Virginia’s State Congress. Excerpts from the Rug Shop Concerts are included.

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