Steve Roberts, owner of Luv-A-Rug, a Victoria, B.C., based area rug cleaning company, never imagined being directly involved with any rescue efforts in New Orleans. But a telephone call from Jackson, Mississippi changed all that.
"I was an exhibitor at a Carpet Cleaning Trade Show in Las Vegas when I got a frantic call from George Bell, who owns a rug cleaning company in Mississippi," remembers Roberts. "He desperately needed one of my new 'RugBadgers' that I recently unveiled to the industry, so after the show, I flew down and personally delivered one to him."
When Roberts arrived in Jackson, George Bell lamented to him how he and all his best people were so busy restoring flood-damaged rugs from New Orleans that he didn't have anyone else that could go back down and pick up other rugs that needed to be saved. "There are thousands of rugs rotting away down there that still can be saved," explained Bell.
Roberts immediately volunteered to go and help rescue these rugs. Even with all the TV coverage, Roberts was not prepared for the devastation he witnessed. "Trees, roofs and even buildings were all blown down. I needed to use a GPS to figure out where I was because there weren’t any street signs left standing," Roberts remarked.
It was while driving through the older upscale district of Metairie that Steve Roberts saw all the front yards piled high with the damaged contents of the houses. "Anything left in the homes during the flood was ruined," Roberts said. "People were dragging out furniture, TVs, kitchen cabinets, washers, dryers, electronics, you name it, it was out there."
Even with all this clean-up going on, people would notice the area rug cleaning van that Roberts was driving and they would chase him down to get him to look at their rugs. "People were so happy to hear their rugs could be saved," recalls Roberts.
Whenever Roberts drove by a house with a rug on a garbage pile, he would stop and ask the owners about it. Many people said, "Oh, you can't save it," but Roberts would reply, "You know what, if it's a good rug, it's worth taking a look at." He was often surprised at what was thrown away. "People would go to the heap, pull the rug out of the pile and I would discover it was a $20,000 Isfahan, or a $10,000Tabriz, or even a $40,000 Beshir rug, all completely restorable!"
According to Roberts, the only salvageable personal item many people had in their flooded home was their oriental rug. Often it was a family heirloom. “In one trip alone, I was able to save over 80 waterlogged rugs that were covered in filth, slime and unimaginable stink,” said Roberts. “Good-quality handmade rugs are extremely resilient and can be easily restored because their dyes will not run, nor will they fall apart like many glued synthetic rugs even under severe conditions like what happened in New Orleans.”
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