WHEN GARY SHAFRAN was in his 20s, he opened a store in Brooklyn, New York, and named it Gary’s Curtain Shop. “I learned a tremendous amount about business and the way to treat people in my first venture,” says Shafran, who spent many years working in the fabric and wallpaper world for comp-anies such as Stroheim & Romann and Nourison.
Eight years ago, Shafran launched L&M Custom Carpets and Rugs. The L is in honor of his wife, Laurie, while the M is a nod to their son, Matthew. While his first enterprise was named for himself, Shafran says his focus now, later in life, is on his family. One thing that remains constant is his commitment to keeping it personal.
In a world that sometimes seems robotic, Shafran is having a grand time riding around in his SUV and meeting with designers to create bespoke carpets. Working with teams in Nepal and India, Shafran is able to create custom rugs in any size and invites his customers to choose from an extensive library of patterns and a rainbow of 600 colors. He also stands by a production time of eight weeks.
“I am a one-man operation,” says Shafran, whose sole associate is his golden retriever, Sammy, who gets paid in Milk-Bones. His revolutionary business model is ironically a throwback to the days of peddling, except that instead of knickknacks piled on a horse and wagon, Shafran delivers rug samples and personal service to top interior designers.
“I deliver better pricing to my customers because they don’t have to pay for secretaries, layers of management, overhead and the myriad of expenses associated with a trad-itional business model; designers get to deal with the person placing the order,” he says.
This year, Shafran is moving his company and family from New Jersey to South Carolina. “We took our first vacation in 10 years and visited Charleston. My wife and I think the area is just fantastic,” he says. “I saw the development in the area and thought that with all the new construction in the area, they probably need rugs.
I researched the market and see tremendous potential. I feel like I found a needle in a haystack. This is the place we want to live.” Shafran adds that he and his wife are excited to begin what he calls the second chapter of their life.
Another reason Shafran is moving to Johns Island is because he takes customers’ concerns to heart and likes to iron out wrinkles in person. “I am the type of person that if something goes wrong and a delivery is delayed, it weighs on me,” he says.
A customer placed an order a few years ago for a $14,000 rug from Nepal. Shafran describes how she wasn’t used to meeting a guy with a Brooklyn accent in her driveway and handing him a $7,000 check. “When I called to follow up, she commented that there was a hole in the middle of the rug,” he says. “I immediately phoned my installer, a third-generation tradesman from Italy, who informed me that it was not a hole but a knot and because the rug was one color it was noticeable. He asked me if I had any extra yarn and within 24 hours the problem was fixed. He sewed the rug with the precision of a surgeon and repaired it to the point that you didn’t even know where the hole was.”
Shafran maintains close ties with his vendors in Nepal and India. His team from India comes to the United States annually and meets with Shafran’s interior design customers to give a preview of upcoming trends.
Shafran will be breaking ground on a new house in March 2020, and he is looking forward to outfitting his home with an eclectic collection of rugs, both casual and whimsical, as well as indoor and outdoor runners. He will be traveling back and forth from his home in New Jersey to see the progress of the construction, meet with customers and set up his office and informal showroom at his new home. Be on the lookout for Shafran, and Sammy, in the neighborhood.
Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston, Boston Common Magazine, Coastal Design Magazine, Charleston Style & Design, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.