Business

The American dream, a lost art and a family business

Kamal's Flooring, Rugs and Upholstery in its second generation

Jose Dominguez sews upholstery fabric at Kamal’s in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Dominguez has been making upholstery for Kamals for 28 years. The store offers a variety of upholstery fabrics for customers who want to revamp their worn furniture. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Jose Dominguez sews upholstery fabric at Kamal’s in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. Dominguez has been making upholstery for Kamals for 28 years. The store offers a variety of upholstery fabrics for customers who want to revamp their worn furniture. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Ajram family business today may take up some 30,000 square feet, on Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids. But Kamal’s Flooring, Rugs and Upholstery started out smaller. Much smaller.

The initial upholstery business, begun a generation ago, occupied a 500-square-foot office space.

“My dad, Kamal, started the business nearly 30 years ago,” said Mo Ajram, second generation owner of Kamal’s. “And my dad still does upholstery today.

“It’s a lost art and no one is doing it anymore.”

Over the years the business not only has greatly expanded its foot print, but also its offerings, now including a variety of flooring and some lighting options.

“After launching the upholstery business, my dad bought a truckload of carpet remnants and began selling those, before purchasing a rack to showcase 40 area rugs. It just exploded from there,” Mo explained.

Kamal’s moved to its current location in 2001 and has renovated and expanded the space several times. A 2015 expansion project doubled the size of the store.

“Now every kind of flooring we offer is displayed,” Mo said.

Today, Kamal’s boasts what it says is the largest inventory of carpet in Iowa, with anywhere from 500 to 700 rolls in stock. It also carries some 3,000 rugs on-site.

The Ajram family does a fair amount of international traveling to find their merchandise.

“We travel to Turkey and Asia and the Middle East to all the international shows to find unique area rugs,” Kamal said. “We want our customers to have something in their house that their neighbors don’t have.”

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“Every day is a new experience,” Mo added. “Because we offer every kind of flooring, we are working on so many different projects and every day there is a different challenge to be met.”

Mo noted that each family member has his or her role in the family business — from his dad handling upholstery and most customer interactions, to his mother, Safaa, handling the finances and his management of installation.

“Everybody has their position but we are all working for the same goal. There’s no greed,” Mo said.

“We all want to keep the service high, the prices reasonable and the store presentable. There are very few family vacations, though.”

They work with a variety of clients at the store, including designers, homeowners, architects and building owners.

“Sometimes customers have to take products home two or three of four times to make sure it is something they love, and we are patient with them,” Mo said.

Kamal noted that recent changes to traffic patterns in downtown have been helpful in increasing drive-by traffic for the store.

“We like the changes downtown,” he said. “They are good for everyone. We want to make people stop when they drive by.”

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The Ajram family immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, and Mo said he’s very proud of his parents for the business they have built.

“They are fulfilling the American dream,” he said.

“Every morning I wake up and appreciate this,” Kamal added. “I am proud to come to work here.”

l Know a business that’s been in operation for more than a year that could make for a nifty “My Biz”? Let us know at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a glance

• Owners: Kamal Ajram and Mo Ajram

• Business: Kamal’s Flooring, Rugs and Upholstery

• Address: 630 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

• Phone: (319) 363-7333

• Website: https://www.kamalsflooring.com

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