TURKISH DELIGHT

BY LESLIE J. THOMPSON

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed. They have an insatiable appetite for discovery and a certain joie de vivre that drives their work. Such is the case with Mustafa Caglak, who, at age 15, left the sleepy Turkish village where he was raised and struck out for the big city of Istanbul to make his way in the world. There he learned how to repair handmade rugs, a valuable skill for what was a booming industry in Turkey.

Thirty years later, Caglak still takes a hands-on approach to his work as the owner of Anatolia Rug Gallery, a bantam shop in Dallas’ Design District that specializes in new and semi-antique handmade Turkish rugs. A stone’s throw from the American Airlines Center, the 1,800-square-foot gallery doesn’t get much foot traffic, and Caglak is fine with that. He likes to keep his operation lean and pass the savings on to his customers.

“I go to Turkey to buy my rugs, and I don’t have overhead,” says Caglak, who picks out each piece personally and keeps much of his 9,000-rug inventory in Atlanta. His business comes primarily from the Round Top Antiques Fair, in Round Top, Texas, where he sets up a 40-by-80-foot tent twice a year, as well as two shows annually in Houston.

“I meet people at shows, and they tell their friends,” he says, with a warm smile. Although he works with a few select rug dealers, most of his clientele are designers and private customers. Given that the rugs he sells generally cost between $1,500 and $5,000, with some valued as high as $50,000, Caglak recognizes that exceptional service is key. He delivers each rug personally, driving across Texas—and sometimes across the country—to bring the handwoven floor coverings to their new owners.

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His affinity for the open road has served Caglak well throughout the course of his career, leading him from one opportunity to another. After first moving to Istanbul as a teen, he continued to hone his talents in the rug trade through his early 20s, until his wanderlust led him across the ocean to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1999. There he spent more than six years working at a gallery specializing in Turkish rugs, repairing and cleaning antique and semi-antique rugs while he learned English by watching TV. Eventually, he struck out on his own, opening a small shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a partner and doing regular shows in Atlanta to build their clientele. Although the venture got off to a strong start, Caglak was forced to shutter the business in 2008, when the market for Turkish rugs succumbed to the economic recession.

Two years later, the intrepid entrepreneur drove to Atlanta and launched a new company with a friend from Iran who specializes in Persian rugs.

“We started doing the shows, and I was on the road until two years ago,” he says. The East Coast business continues to thrive, but Caglak wanted something to call his own, so he opened the Anatolia Rug Gallery in Dallas in late 2014. The gallery sells traditional Turkish rugs of every size, from runners and prayer rugs to traditional 10-by-14 coverings and even oversized pieces up to 25 feet long. If he doesn’t have something in stock, he’ll have it shipped from his inventory in Atlanta.

“Everything is wool. All handwoven. We don’t sell anything machine-made,” Caglak says proudly. “I sell mostly Oushaks, and we sell from Anatolia.” He prides himself on selling only the real deal, although he explains that the name Oushak, a city in Turkey, has become a catch-all term for the traditional style, and rugs offered by other dealers often are made in different regions of the country.

After a lifetime of building his business, Caglak shows no signs of slowing down or retiring. It would seem his appetite for delivering the finest in Turkish rugs truly is insatiable.

Leslie J. Thompson is a Dallas-based freelance writer with a passion for interior design.