The History of The Persian Carpet

Meet Doug and Nelda

Doug and Nelda Lay are the founders, owners, and motivation behind The Persian Carpet.

Doug and Nelda on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary.

All About Doug:

Doug hails from Jackson, Mississippi, although for one year in elementary school he lived in Tupelo and was friends with Elvis Presley, who taught him how to cuss. No joke!

During Doug's formative years in Jackson, he spent most of his time in the backwoods and swamps hunting, fishing, and catching all manner of poisonous beasts, snakes, alligators, you name it. In 1958, Doug went to LSU to study Zoology. There he met the southern belle who would become his wife, Nelda. Upon meeting her, he pounced like a puma and, although she initially put up a struggle, realized that her situation was hopeless and succumbed to the inevitable.

The intimate knowledge of the animal world that Doug acquired as a boy served him well, for he received a scholarship from the University of Chicago to do a PhD in Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology. Doug's gifts were instantly recognized and he was selected to participate in the Street Expedition of 1962-1963 to conduct a zoological survey of the mammal fauna of Iran. This experience also served as Doug's introduction to the wonders of Iran and the world of Persian carpets. Until 1979, Doug traveled to Iran approximately 15 times.

In 1973, Doug became a Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Doug was voted best lecturer two years in a row this would not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever met Doug. Doug is a highly charismatic personality with a fantastic sense of humor and a vast knowledge of most things. Few people who meet Doug forget him.

Doug retired from academia in 1993, but as an acknowledgment of his years of research in Middle Eastern Mammalology was bestowed the distinction of having a snow vole named after him. This mammal now goes by the scientific name Chionomys layi.

Doug Lay
Doug. A rare sighting of Chionymis Layi in the jungles of Southern India.

All About Nelda:

Nelda Lay (Kilcrease) is the true Southern belle. Nelda was born in Natchez, Mississippi, one of the most beautiful towns in America, on the banks of the great river. Nelda grew up in Baton Rouge and her father was a State Representative in the Mississippi House. Nelda met Doug at LSU, and put up a valiant struggle. As you can see from this photo she was quite the catch!

Nelda Lay
Nelda. True Southern Belle.

Southwest Carpets
Nelda: destined for a life of travel
Southwest Carpets
Nelda. Where the charms of The South meet the mysteries of The East.
Persian Carpets
Nelda. The apple of Doug's eye.


When Doug was given the professorship at UNC, Nelda decided it was time to get to work. Over the years, Doug had regularly been returning from his trips to Iran with a handful of rugs. In 1976, Nelda established The Persian Carpet with only twenty rugs.

Today, The Persian Carpet has an inventory of over 7000 hand-woven rugs from Iran, the Caucasus, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and China. The Persian Carpet is also a major manufacturer of hand-woven rugs for niche markets. This success is a measure of Nelda's drive and initiative.

The Daughters. All About Christin and Cynthia:

Durham NC
Christin - the blonde. Cynthia - the brunette.

Christin has spent various periods of her life working at The Persian Carpet, from childhood to adulthood. She has a keen sense of style and a good eye for design. Now, she resides in Chicago, where she practices Physical Therapy.

Cary NC
Christin with Mae.

Cynthia also grew up working in The Persian Carpet. On leaving home, she traveled extensively through southeast Asia, including undertaking research in The Philippines. She completed her MS at the University of Wisconsin. Before coming to work at The Persian Carpet, she was the Director of the New Hampshire Estuaries Project. Mother of Mae and Dougie, Cynthia manages the business advertising and marketing, along with Southwest Looms, a subsidiary company of The Persian Carpet.

Craftsman Rugs NC
Cynthia introduces daughter Mae to the carpet business.

Doug, Nelda and Cynthia Lay in Uzbekistan
Nelda, Doug and Cynthia in Uzbekistan.

Three generations at the Persian Carpet
Three generations of The Persian Carpet!

Traditional, Transitional, and Contemporary
Oriental Carpets for your Home

Come visit our location in Durham, NC or you can call us for more information at (919) 489-8362.