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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jul. 15, 202204:30 AM EST

Business Strategy: Mussallems making move to a bigger vision

Family-owned rug company is relocating to “the perfect spot.”
by: Drew Dixon Drew Dixon, Contributing Writer

Michael Mussallem’s preparation for a new site for Michael’s Rug Studio and Mussallem Area Rug Specialist in Jacksonville is laying the groundwork for a broader business vision.

His Mussallem Investments LLC paid $1.9 million on June 17 for a 10,700-square-foot building at 7119 Bentley Road and renovations are underway. 

The site near Butler Boulevard and Philips Highway more than doubles the space he leases at 7999 Philips Highway, Suite 306, about a mile south.

The studio is a retail store for imported rugs while the specialist business is for cleaning services and repairs.

Mussallem and his wife, Elizabeth, are co-owners of the businesses and property, and are taking a big business step with the relocation.

“I had never bought a piece of commercial property before. I said, ‘I needed 20,000 (square) feet,’ which in the scheme of things, is not what we needed,” Michael Mussallem said.

With architectural consulting, they settled on the Bentley Road location, near the Bentley dealership.

Mussallem said he thinks he has the perfect spot because it is central to customers from the Beaches to Mandarin.

“It has the visibility to get a lot more drive-through traffic than we did here on Philips Highway,” he said.

They bought the structure, previously the School Aids Inc. site, from Firnberg Brothers LLC.

Mussallem said it will cost another $780,000 to remodel it.

The city is reviewing permits for renovations. Tenant Contractors Inc. is the contractor. Lane Architecture is the architect.

Michael Mussallem’s great-grandfather, Charles Mussallem, entered the rug business in Jacksonville in 1897. (Photo by Drew Dixon)

It may take until early 2023 before the relocation is complete.

TD Bank financed the deal with a $2.5 million mortgage. The loan was under the U.S. Small Business Administration nationwide program that assists small business owners.

The loan was made to Mussallem Investments LLC, Michael’s Rug Studio LLC and Mussallem Area Rug Specialist LLC.

It’s not only a new phase in Michael Mussallem’s business development, it’s also a big step for a company that is rooted in family tradition. 

Evolution and adjustments run in Mussallem’s blood. 

He comes from a long family history in the line of work starting with his great-grandfather, Charles Mussallem, who entered the rug business in Jacksonville in 1897. 

Charles Mussallem II carried on the tradition, passing it to Charles Mussallem III, Michael’s father, who not only kept the rug trade but helped guide the Mussallem business, which became a combination arts studio that operates as Mussallem Galleries at 5801 Philips Highway.

It sells rugs, art, antiques, furniture and décor and also provides rug care.

Michael Mussallem’s father died in 2008. Mussallem Galleries now is operated by James Mussallem, Michael’s uncle.

The family also created the No-Muv Corp. Inc., which makes rug padding for use on hard floors, including  wood, tile, stone, brick, terrazzo and laminate. It is based at the family’s 5801 Philips Highway address.

Michael Mussallem, one of seven siblings, struck out on his own 10 years ago and started a business to focus on rug cleaning operations as he pays homage to the family name.  

“It plays a huge role. They’ve built a legacy here in this city and a reputation as being the rug guys in Jacksonville. I still get calls from folks who say they dealt with my grandfather in the 1960s and ‘50s as well as my father,” he said.

Mussallem said the family has customers with invoices from the 1950s.

“We’re one of the oldest companies in Jacksonville that’s family-owned,” he said.

While the name recognition is a powerful component to his success, he knows he has his own business path to take.

“I think it has a fair amount to do with our success. But as far as myself and branding the face of the company, I take every call to the business personally,”  Mussallem said.

Michael and Elizabeth Mussallem have two sons, 2-year-old Michael and 9-month-old Ascher.

Ultimately, they see the Jacksonville market as a launching point to a broader footprint.

“It’s a dream. Ten years ago, when I was cleaning rugs on my sister’s driveway on my own, I couldn’t have fathomed being in the position we are. I have to thank God for that,”  Michael Mussallem said. 

Collette Strickland is a marketing strategist for Tegna Marketing Solutions, the marketing wing for the media company that owns multiple broadcast outlets such as WTLV TV-12 in Jacksonville. 

She has worked with Mussallem to develop his marketing plan for four years.

“Family is absolutely important to him,” Strickland said. “He is a very family-focused person.”

It is Mussallem’s larger business vision that will lead to continued success. 

“Right off the bat, I realized he was very smart, very dedicated, very focused and very strategic when it came to what he wanted to do with his business,” Strickland said.

“I’m also a customer and I can vouch for his services as well.” 

Mussallem said his 2021 revenue was $1.5 million. He has not projected current revenue as he builds and moves.

He does not see Jacksonville as the limit as he maps the future.

“We’ve had thoughts of opening other rug operations in Orlando, Palm Beach and even Savannah to branch our name out in Florida and South Georgia,” he said. 

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