Q&A with Paige Drummond of 18th Street Orientals

Taking pride in customer service and being an integrated part of this community are what keep this family-run business humming along and more relevant than ever.

More than three decades ago, Paige Drummond’s parents and brother, Jim, opened 18th Street Orientals in what’s now the space that sells shoes to Birmingham’s running community—Trak Shak.

Fast-forward 30 years: The store’s location has changed, and Paige now runs the family-owned business alongside her brother and a few longtime employees. “Because our employees have been here for so many years, this has become more like a family environment,” she says.

We sat down with Paige to talk about her love of her business, what’s trending in the industry, and what in home décor excites her right now.

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You just celebrated your 30-year anniversary at 18th Street Orientals. Congratulations! What makes your shop stand out from others in Birmingham—and how have you kept it unique for three decades?

My brother and I choose every rug in our store, so we really know what we’re selling. Also, our customer service is spectacular: We offer free delivery, but more than that, we go to customers’ houses and look at their spaces and fabrics to help them come up with a plan and select a rug. It’s easier if we have something we can see and visualize, but it also allows up to get to know our customers and their tastes better.

When your parents opened the shop, you were getting your master’s degree in education. That’s pretty different from what you’re doing today. What about this business drew you in?

In this business, you meet so many different people. Every day is different, which is exciting to me. When I was in school to get my master’s degree, I dreaded Sundays because I wasn’t excited about going to class. I started working at the rug shop on the side while in school, and I realized that when I was there, I didn’t have the “Sunday blues.” I ultimately had to make a decision to either pursue education or the rug industry. It was this, hands down.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m a magazine person. I do look at Instagram, but I really love magazines. I started my own old-school version of Pinterest about 25 years ago by ripping pages out of magazines and putting them into a binder. I just find that much more enjoyable than looking at Instagram. 

What are some trends you’re seeing—or following?

More color! The great thing about rugs is you can add color to a space by layering a colored rug over a neutral one. Another trend is mixing modern pieces with antiques. In my opinion, if you find something you love—whether it’s modern or antique—you need to buy it because it will go with the other things you love. People are also repurposing pieces. Right now, I’m using my parents’ china from when they got married. It’s kind of modern and beautiful and cool. The china isn’t a trend, and it’s not my style either. But it’s fun, personal, and repurposed. 

What’s the most common mistake you see people make when shopping for a rug?

Looking for a rug that’s too small for their space.

Buying a handmade rug—whether it’s your first purchase or you’re adding to your collection—is an investment. How can customers make the most of the experience?

Unless you’re starting with a completely clean slate and the rug is your first decision, you’ll want to bring with you as many factors and already-made décor decisions as possible—pictures of your space; sample fabrics of other materials in the room; information about your lighting, art, and room size. Also, don’t be afraid to try the rug in your house. We let our customers do this. A rug is a little bit like a dress: You love it on a hanger, but you put it on and it’s not quite right. Or there’s one that maybe isn’t your favorite, but you try it on anyway and realize “Wow!”

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