Written by Dasha O. Morgan | Photos by Linda D. Cluxton
Tunc and Nancy Togar of Togar Rugs in Arden have built their business step by step, brick by brick. This year they are celebrating thirty-six years in business. Over the years, they have focused primarily on selling one-of-a-kind hand made rugs, often antiques—importing them from Tunc’s native country, Turkey, as well as from Iran and Azerbaijan.
Honesty and integrity combined with good customer relations are the foundation of their business. Togar Rugs has grown from a very small company to being considered now the largest Turkish dealer in the United States. They sell wholesale throughout the United States, in Canada and Mexico, but they also sell retail here in Arden at the warehouse. They have a large showroom in Market Square in High Point, one for the January market in Atlanta, and they attend other markets. Throughout the year containers are shipped from Turkey to Savannah, bound for the 12,000 square foot North Carolina warehouse on Long Shoals Road in Arden.
So how did all this come about? In the late 1960’s, Tunc Togar received an American Field Service Exchange Scholarship to become a high school student in Placerville, California. When he returned to Turkey, he attended the University of Istanbul, where he received an MBA in business. This Business School is considered a sister school of the Harvard Business School with many of the same case studies. Here Tunc learned about Tupperware, which followed a business format of direct sales. Years later he decided the Tupperware format would be a good business plan to follow in selling his imported rugs. Even now Tunc travels on road shows, primarily to South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida and Texas, although there are fewer shows than before. Many times these are held in private homes by private invitation, but sometimes they are held in public locations and customers are informed with private invitations.
As a young man, Tunc had many jobs, gaining experience and connections. After Business School he worked with the French company Unilever and was on track to become an executive, but stayed only four months. Then he had a series of other positions. After getting back from the U.S., he worked in the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul, became an Associated Press agent, began working with Time magazine, and later worked in the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, where he learned how to recognize quality rugs and their origins from a Monsieur Akavi. Tunc remembers that Monsieur Akavi would consummate a business deal with only a handshake—something almost unheard of in today’s American market. With Tunc’s ability to speak English, he also worked as a tour guide, taking tourists around Turkey and introducing them to his homeland. On one happy occasion in 1975 he fortuitously met Nancy Pomeroy from Asheville. They were married in 1977 and now have two daughters, who grew up here in Asheville. His daughter Deniz graduated from Carolina Day School; Derin, from Asheville High School. The older daughter Deniz now lives in Turkey with her husband, has just received a Ph.D. in politics, and has three daughters. In fact, many people from Western North Carolina (probably well over 200) had the extraordinary experience of being invited to Deniz’s wedding, in the year 2000, which was held at the breathtaking Ciragan Palace overlooking the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Those who attended say it was a once in a lifetime experience. After the wedding many went on a cruise organized by the Togars along the coast of Turkey and to the Greek Isles. Derin, the younger sister who graduated from the University of Indiana, sang a delightful song at the wedding. She is a talented singer and composer and currently has a contract with Sony Turkey and is in the process of producing a new album, which will be coming out this fall.
Just A Little About the Republic of Turkey
If you remember any of your history from school, you may be aware that Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinople, which was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine to be the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome to repeated Barbarian invasions in A.D.476, Constantinople survived and prospered. In the twelfth century it was considered to be the largest and wealthiest city in Christendom. It boasted many architectural masterpieces, such as the Church of Hagia Sophia, the sacred Palace of the Emperors, the Hippodrome and the Golden Gate, as well as numerous arcaded Avenues and Squares. Constantinople contained a wealth of artistic and literary treasures.
Constantinople survived as such mainly because it was surrounded by two walls of defenses, about a mile apart, and was considered impregnable. However, it was taken in 1204 by the army of the Fourth Crusade and in 1261 by Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos. Then in the year 1453 the twenty-one-year-old Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II considered it a thorn in his side and vowed to conquer it. The British historian Nicolle wrote that the citizens of Constantinople were treated better by their Ottoman conquerors than they had been by the Crusaders in 1204. The Pillage was for only three days (the time allowed by custom, and the Army was pulled out of the city right after the time allowed). By the order of the Sultan, the city was NOT destroyed and the religious buildings protected. Only about 4,000 Greeks died in the siege. In time the name was changed to Istanbul, and it became the capital and largest city of the Ottoman Empire.
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