The Way We Were: Hooshang Harvesf, Ph.D.

The Way We Were: Hooshang Harvesf, Ph.D.

Dr. Hooshang Harvesf came to the United States from Persia as a young, educated man in the early 1960s but took his schooling even further by completing the Ph.D. program in economics at The University of California, Berkeley. His father had always stressed this advice: “Get an education first. Then, do whatever it is that makes you want to wake up in the morning and do it.” To honor his father’s wish, that’s exactly what Hooshang did. While earning his degree, he knew that someday he would open a shop. Once he was handed his diploma, he immediately set out to realize that goal. He became the owner and operator of Hooshang Oriental Rug Gallery, Inc.

“To this day, to this minute, I don’t know why I like what I do. I have no idea,” Hooshang said. Perhaps it’s the daily being surrounded by hand-knotted pieces of art, anywhere from 300 to over 1,000 knots per inch. Perhaps it’s the natural fiber—wool, silk, and cotton—that has him intrigued. Maybe it’s the nostalgic pull reminiscent of his boyhood. Maybe it’s the yearslong labor of love that has gone into each design somewhere overseas that Hooshang appreciates; he has a natural eye for quality and uniqueness. Whatever it is, it has kept Hooshang wanting to wake up every morning for the past 45 years and get to his business of selling and servicing oriental rugs.

Hooshang Harvesf with rugs hanging behind him

On Sept. 15, 1977, Hooshang first opened the doors of his retail shop to the public. And every day since then feels to Hooshang as if it’s his first. An excitement still wells within him as he turns the key in the lock at 3571 St. Johns Avenue, as it did that Thursday morning more than four decades ago. Hooshang is a humble man, but there is one thing about which he boasts. His is the only store in the Shoppes of Historic Avondale that has retained the same business, the same name and the same owner at the same location for such a long period of time. 

When he first arrived on St. Johns, there were only two or three restaurants around. The other establishments were all retailers. “What has happened since is that the nature of business in Avondale has changed. Now, it’s less retail and more entertainment,” Hooshang said. Today, there are 16 or so eateries nearby, whereas 90% used to be retail shops. 

Beyond Avondale, Hooshang commented that the Jaguars have made a big change in Jacksonville at large. “I am a fan like everybody else is,” he said. And it’s not only because he lives here that he says that. He likes them!

Because of his longevity in the community, many residents refer to Hooshang as “The Mayor of Avondale.” The truth, however, is that he has never held public office despite his love of the people here and their love for him. One of the ways the mutual affection is exhibited is through Hooshang’s holiday window display. “God knows, if I had a penny for each picture taken of this window, I would have millions of dollars from it,” he said. 

While touring Royal Street in New Orleans in 1978, Hooshang spotted two Superman figurines in a store window. He was neither a fan nor a critic of the superhero, but Hooshang purchased both pieces. He still does not know why. When he returned to his hotel room with them, he realized they were nutcrackers. When he arrived back home to Jacksonville, he set them in his shop’s window. That’s how his collection started. Today, he owns over 1,000 nutcrackers. “I feel like they are no longer mine; they belong to the people,” he said.

Hooshang holding a nutcracker that has on shades and is holding a guitar

Those first two turned into hundreds that Hooshang has been displaying annually for so long that each nutcracker has its own followers who come religiously at Christmas to visit. If a particular piece happens not to be in the window that year, the visitor will enter Hooshang’s shop and inquire about it. “It’s a challenge because we cannot take certain nutcrackers out of the window without upsetting some people. Seriously,” he said. The challenge is to add new ones every year without taking any away. Carolyn Patterson, the window dresser, has designed shelving in an attempt to make that possible. The nutcracker display brims, and Hooshang recalls overhearing one visitor telling his girlfriend on the phone, “Eat your heart out! You think you have a collection?”

Nutcracker Santa holding a list of names

Hooshang is not sure where that young man was visiting from. People come from far and wide to visit Jacksonville and the Shoppes and his store. Over the course of four-plus decades, Hooshang has made an interesting observation about the residents of Jacksonville. It has been his experience that the people who live at the Beach, stay at the Beach. They seldom cross over. The people who live in Southside, it seems, have a hard time crossing the bridge to the other side of town. For them, it’s like crossing into another state. “I never understood that,” he admitted. But they do cross. And Hooshang is grateful.

What initially drew Hooshang here to Jacksonville after Berkeley is that his brother had established a pediatric practice here. Hooshang had just earned his doctorate, and his mother was coming to visit the United States for the first time. He and his brother had hoped she might feel as comfortable here as they did. They wanted to convince her to stay, and she did. She lived out the last 18 years of her life here.

One of the many reasons Hooshang likes living and working in the Avondale area of the city is that it is well maintained. “It has always, always been kept up,” he said. Also, Memorial Park is close by.

“I love Avondale! And I love the people.”

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)