by Sabrina Farmer
Manayunk may not be the hippest neighborhood in Philly anymore (that honor belongs to Fishtown), but that doesn’t mean it’s not home to a few hidden treasures.
One such treasure—a magnificent Persian rug showroom—belongs to Parisa Abdollahi, owner of Parisa Rugs and Décor in Old City, and it seems decidedly out of place along the banks of the Schuylkill.
“It’s kind of like Ali Baba’s secret cave,” she chuckles as she leads us into her private collection of roughly 3,000 antique Persian rugs. She’s definitely not wrong.
We love her aesthetic—decidedly modern with a dash of Old World sophistication—which is faultlessly embodied by her Old City storefront. It comes as no surprise that every piece in the cavernous warehouse is stunning and kept in near-perfect condition.
The rugs are occasionally shown on appointment, but mostly they’re kept in storage in Manayunk until she can display them in her store. Her father started the expansive collection around 34 years ago after leaving Iran and settling in America. The sheer amount of history in the room is overwhelming. Almost every rug in the room is museum-quality — we’re talking stacks on stacks on stacks of luxe, one-of-a-kind and very, very old Persian rugs.
The Abdollahis themselves are just as impressive as their collection. Watching them volley fun facts (Dad’s hometown of Shiraz is known as the birthplace of wine) and wistful proclamations (“Buying a rug is like buying an oil painting”) back and forth is as much an athletic event as a match at Wimbledon. It’s invigorating. Fueled by passion and sheer knowledge, they each fight to tell us the tribal significance of a peacock motif and the symbolism behind the radial symmetry (or lack thereof) woven into the rugs. They each have favorites. Parisa’s is a vibrant number, much like her personality—turquoise and saffron (dyed with real saffron) and beautiful royal blue, a product of months of extensive handiwork.
Prices can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a small, poorly conserved piece to tens of thousands of dollars for one that’s been preserved beautifully. Each price is determined based on several factors, including age, color pattern, rarity, intricacy, and condition — qualities that Abdollahi is more than willing to spend time explaining to her clients.
The showroom is overwhelming, but in the best way possible; it’s clear why Parisa prefers to show specific rugs to clients instead of bringing them into Ali Baba’s cave. The beautiful rugs pile high, sometimes more than 20 deep, and the vibrant colors everywhere you look compete for your attention. Each stack of rugs represents several hundred years of history spread on the floor.
Most people don’t know that this Persian rug showroom exists in Manayunk. You definitely won’t get access without going directly through Parisa — and that’s exactly how Ms. Abdollahi likes it. To try for your chance at shopping the extensive, gorgeous collection, start making your way to Parisa Rugs in Old City ASAP.