Gov. Jared Polis visits Nepal and a Vail Valley family’s company where hand-woven rugs are made
Gov. Polis' excellent adventure covers both commerce, culture
It’s a big deal when the governor pops in for a visit, especially if he traveled to the other side of the world to do it.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently visited Reliance Carpets, a rug-weaving factory in Nepal, whose global reach has roots in the Vail Valley.
Dolma Dhakhwa, sister of Blossom Rugs owners Dechen and Samten Aungae, a Vail Valley business that imports hand-woven rugs from Nepal, operates the factory.
“It is such a great honor to have Gov. Polis visit our factory,” Dhakhwa said in a phone call from Nepal.
A group of Nepalese business people asked around to learn who in Nepal has connections to Colorado, which led to Dhakhwa.
“They told her, ‘The governor has a half hour,’” Samten Aungae said.
Dhakhwa rolled out the red carpet, showing Polis the factory and some Nepalese culture.
“We are so happy to welcome Colorado’s governor to Nepal. We are thankful that Colorado has been so helpful and generous to us,” she said.
“It was exciting to visit a company that exports to Colorado,” Polis said in a phone interview Friday.
Reliance Carpet in Kathmandu employs several dozen craftsmen and craftswomen in Nepal, and also creates jobs in Colorado, Polis said.
Rug weavers work more than 30 looms, while other workers create organic dyes and separate the wool using traditional techniques. It can take months to make a single rug, but it’s worth the wait, Polis said.
Polis’ Kathmandu visit was part of his first Colorado trade mission as a governor, with stops in Kathmandu, Bangalore and Mumbai.
Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Nepali people in the country, Polis said.
A circuitous route to Colorado
Like most paths through Nepal, the road to Colorado is a circuitous route, especially for Samten and Dechen Aungae. Their families fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1959, seeking refuge in Nepal.
The Red Cross was one of the only agencies in the region in 1959 and convinced Tibetan Refugee families to weave some rugs to sell to Europeans and Americans.
So they did.
“They lived for six months on the money they made from one rug,” Dechen Aungae said.
They taught some others to weave. Those people taught some others and a business was born.
Samten and Dechen Aungae immigrated to the United States after spending their childhoods as Tibetan refugees. Dolma, Dechen’s sister, stayed in Nepal and looks after the family factory.
Samten and Dechen Aungae opened Blossom Rug Vail during the summer of 2009. They opened their Steamboat store before that.
Dolma and Dechen’s family in Nepal has run the rug manufacturing company for 50 years.
The family business is now an international industry, reaching from Nepal to Colorado and several other points around the globe. Many of the rugs go to Blossom Rugs.
“It’s a family business. We have been making rugs for a long time,” Dhakhwa said.
Send them artwork, photographs or just about anything and they can make a handwoven rug from it.
Before long a rug returns handwoven from silk, wool, cashmere … anything you want, even metal. Depending on the size, four or five people work on one rug, sometimes in two shifts.
Because people in Colorado and around the globe keep buying these rugs, around 250 people in Nepal have pretty good jobs. Other facilities around Nepal employ similar numbers.
Along with rugs, Blossom carries handmade jewelry, arts and crafts from Nepal, India, and Tibet.
Samten and Dechen Aungae work with scores of interior designers.
“That creates direct communication. No middleman. Because we are a direct source, that also keeps our pricing competitive,” Samten Aungae said.
Buy a rug, help a kid
They reinvest much of the money back into Nepal. Dechen Aungae was one of the first daycare teachers in her sister’s first childcare centers, teaching English.
Samten Aungae’s brother runs an orphanage, Phende Children’s Home in Nepal, home to more than 50 children. For $40 a month you can keep a kid safe, warm, fed and in school.
Buy a rug from them and help save some kids. Samten and Dechen Aungae are active supporters.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.