Ladue News Feature Stories

Quality Underfoot

“We all find something in life that will catch our passion and that’ll be something that sticks with us forever,” Greg Halbert says. “For some people, it’s couture clothing; for other people, it’s glassware.”

For Halbert, though, it’s rugs.

The native Missourian owns Halbert Rug Co. on Manchester Road in Warson Woods. In his shop, visitors can find a wide assortment of high-quality, handmade Tibetan and other Oriental rugs of all sizes. Halbert personally curates the shop’s collection of rugs, which are made using hand-spun, naturally dyed wools and traditional old-world techniques.

He’s been a “rug nut” for most of his life, starting in college, when he was collecting antique pieces. When Halbert moved to San Francisco post-college, he found a group of people who shared his interest in rugs, including a friend who bequeathed him a collection of rugs after he retired and moved away.

“He told me to sell them for whatever I could get,” Halbert recalls. “I was working downtown during the week and selling rugs out of my garage on weekends.”

Word got out about the guy selling rugs out of his garage on a narrow, one-way San Francisco street. One weekend, a neighbor called the cops on him.

“Two cops came in one car; one bought a rug,” Halbert says with a laugh. “The other came back the next day and bought one, too.”

Driven by a passion for high-quality rugs and the stories behind them, Halbert began to think of ways to make this hobby a full-time gig. Around the same time, a retail space opened up a block and a half from his house, and a few new rug sources popped up.

“When stuff like that happens and it’s right in front of you like that, I don’t think you can ignore it,” Halbert says. “When you do, you could be missing out on a wonderful path in life.”

He had his San Francisco shop for more than a decade before moving back to Missouri in 2007, when he opened Halbert Rug Co. in the Central West End. In late 2015, he moved to a new location on Manchester Road in Warson Woods, where he’s been ever since. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays or by appointment.

Visitors to the clean-lined, minimalist store will be immediately wowed by the room’s attention-grabbers: the rugs. When customers come in looking for a rug, Halbert typically spends time with them, educating them on the work behind the fine pieces. The rugs range in style from traditional to tribal to Tibetan to modern.

“A lot of changes have happened in the rug industry over the past 150 years,” Halbert says. “The two big things that occurred were the introduction of man-made synthetic dyes and machine spinning of the yarns. Prior to that, all the colors came from a natural plant source, and all material was prepared by hand. Today, in 2018, of the whole world’s production of handmade rugs, the percentage that is done with a handmade yarn strand and a color source that came from a natural plant dye is probably 2 percent. And that’s probably being generous.”

However, all rugs in Halbert’s store are created using this old-world method that predates synthetic dyes and machines. As an example, a 9- by 12-foot rug found at Halbert Rug Co. has years of work behind it. Halbert goes on regular buying trips to countries where rugs are still manufactured this way – often countries like Afghanistan, Nepal and India.

He says these trips are “very busy and very fast.” Since he works with closed market sources that he’s had for years, they know he’s coming and are ready to show him products when he arrives. Halbert selects the rugs he wants for his store and has them shipped to St. Louis, where he turns them around to his customer base.

“This shop is very different from any other shop you’re going to find in the Midwest,” he says. “[These rugs] are something that can last for hundreds of years and increase in value. There’s so much work put into it and such an artistic element to it.”

For more than 20 years in San Francisco and St. Louis, Halbert Rug Co. has been providing clients with gorgeous rugs that range in style, size and origin. Halbert says the most rewarding part of his job is seeing a client’s face light up once the rug is in that client’s home.

“When you put something that big of this quality in a room, it changes the feel and dynamic of everything,” he says. “It elevates the whole space, and the quality makes a difference.”

This story was originally published at laduenews.com. Read it on LN’s website here.

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