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Pandemic hurting local small business, owner says he’s a survivor

Burned SUV in West Valley City under investigation for possible arson. Photo courtesy KSL-TV

HOLLADAY, Utah – One man’s dream was to come to America to live a simple and happy life. That was the plan Ashot Ouzounian’s family had after they survived the Armenian genocide. It was Ouzounian’s dream to build a better life. 

“They don’t make men like them anymore”

“My grandpa’s brother came here in 1947, so he sponsored us,” Ouzounian told KSL-TV. “Armenians are all over the place. We’re similar to Jewish people. Any country you go to, you’ll find an Armenian.”

Ouzounian says he came to Utah in his early 20’s speaking several languages at the time, but English was not one of them. 

Ask about his grandfather and Ouzounian will have many stories to tell you about how he fled genocide and escaped to Syria. He found around 250 orphans that needed money, they weaved rugs and his grandfather used the profits to help support them. 

“They don’t make men like them anymore,” he said proudly while holding up a picture of his grandfather. “He taught me manners, he taught me how to treat people and how to be kind and how to be generous, and how to share your food — everything.”

Business is down 

The pandemic is hitting his small business harder than he ever thought possible. He owns Fine Designer Rugs. His little “warehouse” is in his backyard where he stores rugs imported from all over the world. He is proud of the handwoven products he sells. 

The rugs come from countries including Pakistan, Tibet, India, China saying he only buys rugs from factories that he has actually visited so he is aware of their techniques, quality, and how the employees are treated. 

The virus is not treating his business well. He says customers are nervous and business is way down. “Oh. 90, 95%,” he said.  “I mean, just… nothing. People call, ask questions, and then you never hear back from them.”

“They don’t know what to do,” Ouzounian said. “You know, very nervous. I’m nervous.”

Part of Ouzounian’s business is repairing rugs, he is using this time to help others as he waits for business to pick up. He is offering to clean rugs for people 60 and over, for rugs of certain sizes. 

Moving forward

“I know how to survive,” he said. “I learned from my grandparents. Armenian culture, we have so many dishes that don’t cost much at all. I mean, cost pennies.”

He says it isn’t easy, but he will get through this, he learned from his grandfather and he is a survivor. 

“I learned money doesn’t buy happiness,” he said. “It pays for things, but it does not buy happiness.”