Steve Cibor loaded his Ford Explorer with a few samples of Tibetan rugs and drove for days along the East Coast in 1994, trying to persuade retailers to sell the expensive hand-woven pieces.
"Nobody bought it — but they gave me ideas," Cibor said. "In the rug industry, people know what will sell."
Tamarian Carpets, the Baltimore-based rug importer and design company Cibor founded, has come a long way in the 20 years since then. The company is now a top rug exporter from Nepal, where the ancient craft of rug making is one of the country's biggest industries.
The company's wool rugs, hand-knotted in Nepal, retail for thousands of dollars at a network of...