Downtown: Pop-up rug shop moves into former Gibson’s on South Main Street
For more than 17 years, Fred Oxaal has sold rugs on the side of Loudon Road in Concord.
He’s sold rugs from Maine to Vermont, Texas to Florida.
He’s sold rugs out of tents and in parking lots.
Now, he’s selling rugs under a real roof. Oxaal, also known as “Fred the Rug Man,” has set up a pop-up rug shop at 27 S. Main St.
“This is my big chance to make it indoors,” Oxaal, 56, said.
The storefront is in the center of downtown, between Bread & Chocolate and the Capital Commons parking garage. It has been empty since Gibson’s Bookstore moved down the street to the Love building in September.
Now, a bright yellow “Rug Sale” sign is strung across the green letters that used to mark the space as Gibson’s. Oxaal is hoping his shop can become a more permanent fixture on South Main Street, but he’s signed only a month-to-month lease with Andy Sanborn, the Republican state senator who owns the building.
“Pop-up stores as a concept, they free you from the really onerous obligation of a long-term lease,” Oxaal said.
If all goes well, he won’t need to travel away from his family in Bow quite so much. And more time in the Concord area is just one of the perks of giving up the traveling salesman’s life.
“I don’t have to take down the racks everyday,” he said with a laugh.
Inside the store, stacks of rugs in different sizes and patterns – some intricate and formal, others in bright colors and modern swirls – were waiting for customers last week. A copy of Oriental Carpet Design sat on the table where Oxaal has set up his makeshift desk.
His niche is on the price tags, he said. Five-by-eight rugs start at $69, he said, and his range goes up to about $500 for his most expensive rugs. He nodded in the direction of a four-piece set of rugs for less than $200, and a stack of small mats in different patters that go for $5 a pop.
“My frozen turkey special,” he calls them.
“What I’m trying to do is have really nice-looking rugs at bargain prices,” he said. “I think there’s demand for – I didn’t say ‘shabby chic,’ but cool stuff that’s cheap.”
A customer stepped into the store last week to browse, telling Oxaal as he walked between the rows of rugs that he was looking for something with darker, masculine colors.
“Big rugs and little rugs, they’re all a good price,” Oxaal told him. “I have a huge selection at very modest prices.”
The customer left without buying, but he eyed another doormat on the way out and promised to return the next week. Oxaal’s shop is open every day, and he needs the customers to be able to stick around downtown Concord.
“Helping people to pull their room together, it’s a challenge but it’s fun,” he said.
Fred the Rug Man is also on Facebook under that name and at fredtherugman.com.
“Hopefully, you see me here in the first week in June,” Oxaal said.
Outdoor farmers market opens
The Concord Farmers Market will be open for the season Saturday, and President Wayne Hall is already raving about the lettuce.
“It’s off the hook,” Hall said.
Lettuce and other goods from more than 40 vendors will be available at this year’s Saturday market, on Capitol Street between North State and North Main streets. The market will run through October.
“There isn’t one of our vendors that I’m not excited about seeing this year,” Hall said.
Starting June 5, some of the vendors will also open a market in the Steeplegate Mall parking lot from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays.
“I think the Concord farmers markets, both of them have the best selection and some of the best products you’re going to find anywhere,” Hall said.
The Saturday market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. A full list of the vendors and more information is available at concordfarmersmarket.com.
Shopping for charity
Also Saturday, more than 30 downtown businesses will participate in “May It Forward,” when they will donate a portion of their profits that day to several Concord nonprofits.
The donations will benefit Girls Inc., the Pope Memorial SPCA, the Friendly Kitchen and Families in Transition. Gretchen Peters, owner of Puppy Love Hot Dogs, said the charity event was organized by the Merchants Roundtable.
“We want to give back, to let the community know that we care about these charities that are so important to our area,” Peters said.
Saturday is also the Spring Into Healthy Living street fair hosted by the Concord Food Co-op, and Peters said she expects a lot of shoppers downtown this weekend.
A full list and map of the participating stores is available at downtownconcordshops.com or on the May It Forward page on Facebook.
“Those maps will be available in stores the day of, also, to remind people to go around and check out other downtown businesses,” Peters said.
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)