Michael Mussallem’s preparation of 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 June 17 for a 10,700-square-foot building at 7119 Bentley Road, and renovations are underway.
The location near Butler Boulevard and Phillips Highway more than doubles the space he leases at 7999 Phillips Highway, Suite 306, about a mile south.
The studio is an import carpet store and the specialty business is cleaning and repair.
Musallem and his wife, Elizabeth, co-own the business and property and are taking a big business step with the move.
“I had never bought commercial property before. I said, ‘I needed 20,000 (square) feet,’ which in the scheme of things is not what we needed,” Michael Musallem said.
With architectural consulting, they settled on the Bentley Road site, near the Bentley dealership.
Mussallem said he thought he had the perfect location because it was central to customers from the beaches to Mandarin.
“It has the visibility to get a lot more car traffic than we did here on Philips Highway,” he said.
They purchased the structure, formerly the site of School Aids Inc., from Firnberg Brothers LLC.
Musallem said it will cost another $780,000 to remodel.
The city is reviewing the renovation permits. Tenant Contractors Inc. is a contractor. Lane Architecture is the architect.
It could take until early 2023 before the move is complete.
TD Bank financed the deal with a $2.5 million mortgage. The loan was under the US Small Business Administration’s national 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.
This is not only a new phase in the development of Michael Musallem’s business, but also a big step for a company rooted in family tradition.
Evolution and corrections run in Mussallem’s blood.
He comes from a long family history in the line of work beginning with his great-grandfather, Charles Musallem, who entered the carpet business in Jacksonville in 1897.
Charles Musallem II continued the tradition by passing it on to Charles Musallem III, Michael’s father, who not only kept the carpet trade alive, but helped run the Musallem business, which became a combined art studio operating as the Musallem Galleries at 5801 Philips Highway.
It sells rugs, art, antiques, furniture and decor and also provides rug care.
Michael Mussallem’s father passed away in 2008. Mussallem Galleries is now managed by James Mussallem, Michael’s uncle.
The family also established No-Muv Corp. Inc., which manufactures carpet underlays for use on hard floors including wood, tile, stone, brick, terrazzo and laminate. It is based at the family address of 5801 Philips Highway.
Michael Musallem, one of seven siblings, struck out on his own 10 years ago and started a business that focused on carpet cleaning operations, paying homage to the family name.
“It plays a huge role. They have built a legacy here in this city and a reputation for rugs in Jacksonville. I still get calls from people who say they dealt with my grandfather in the 1960s and 1950s as well as my father,” he said.
Musallem said the family has customers with invoices dating back to the 1950s.
“We’re one of the oldest family-owned companies in Jacksonville,” he said.
While name recognition is a powerful component of his success, he knows he needs to take his own business path.
“I think it has a lot 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,” Musallem said.
Michael and Elizabeth Musallem have two sons, 2-year-old Michael and 9-month-old Asher.
Ultimately, they see the Jacksonville market as a stepping stone to a broader footprint.
“This is a dream. Ten years ago, when I was cleaning my sister’s driveway rugs by myself, I couldn’t imagine being in the position we are in. I have to thank God for that,” Michael Musallem said.
Collette Strickland is a marketing strategist for Tegna Marketing Solutions, the marketing arm of the media company that owns multiple stations such as WTLV TV-12 in Jacksonville.
She worked with Mussallem to develop his marketing plan for four years.
“Family is absolutely important to him,” Strickland said. “He’s a very family-oriented person.”
It is Mussallem’s larger business vision that will drive continued success.
“I knew right away that he was very smart, very dedicated, very focused and very strategic about what he wanted to do with his business,” Strickland said.
“I am also a customer and can vouch for his services as well.”
Musallem said his 2021 revenue was $1.5 million. He didn’t plan for ongoing income while he was building and moving.
He doesn’t see Jacksonville as a border as he charts the future.
“We had thoughts of opening other carpet operations in Orlando, Palm Beach and even Savannah to branch out our name into Florida and South Georgia,” he said.
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