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Our History

Meet Doug and Nelda:

Doug and Nelda Lay are the founders, owners, and motivation behind The Persian Carpet. As you can see from this portrait they are both descended from the best stock of the highest caliber.

Doug and Nelda Lay
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, apparently, taught Doug how to cuss. No joke!

Doug's formative years were in Jackson, where 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. On their first date they went to church. This was probably the only time that Doug has ever gone to church of his own volition and demonstrates the lengths a man will go to in order to woo a beautiful woman.

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 Ph.D. 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. Up 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 in the jungle
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's grew up in Baton Rouge and her father was a State Representative in the Mississippi House. Nelda met Doug at LSU, where, as has been outlined above, she put up a valiant struggle. As you can see from this photo she was quite the catch!

Nelda Lay Bridal Portrait
Nelda. True Southern Belle.

After marrying Doug she moved to Chicago, where she produced two beautiful daughters - Christin and Cynthia. As Doug's work involved a lot of travel Nelda also became quite the globe-trotter. Nelda has traveled in Europe, Russia, Iran, India, China and Australia.

Nelda and Doug Lay
Nelda. The apple of Doug's eye.
Doug and Nelda Lay
Nelda. Destined for a life of travel.

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 she established The Persian Carpet, with only twenty rugs.

In time the business grew. 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 her drive and initiative.

Nelda Lay
Nelda. Where the charms of The South meet the mysteries of The East.

The Daughters. All About Christin and Cynthia:

It is hardly a surprise, considering the DNA from which they were produced, that Christin and Cynthia are such fine looking girls. In all truth they are both total foxes!

Sisters Christin Lay and Cynthia McLaren
Christin - the blonde. Cynthia - the brunette. Yummy!

Christin spent a time when she returned to her deep southern roots and lived in New Orleans. 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. These days she resides in Chicago, a city she happily calls home. There, she practices Physical Therapy and styles her way around town!

Christin Lay and niece Mae
Aunty Christin with Niece Mae.

Cynthia also grew up working in The Persian Carpet. On leaving home she traveled extensively through south-east Asia and completed a MA at the University of Wisconsin. Her research involved her living in the Philippines. Before coming to work at The Persian Carpet to work on a full-time basis, she was the Director of the New Hampshire Estuaries Project.

Cynthia McLaren and daughter Mae
Cynthia introduces daughter Mae to the carpet business.

Apart from being gorgeous, Cynthia is also highly intelligent and extremely motivated. She is the mother of two children but still manages all of the business advertising and marketing, along with Southwest Looms, a subsidiary company of The Persian Carpet. Cynthia knows how to get stuff done!

All About Bruce, Mae and Dougie:

Bruce McLaren is Cynthia's husband. The two met in Uzbekistan in 1998, when Cynthia was traveling with Doug and Nelda and looking at Central Asian textiles. Bruce has a Ph.D. in archaeology and was working on an archaeological expedition. They met in the town of Bukhara and it was love at first sight. They married in 2001.

Doug, Nelda and Cynthia Lay in Uzbekistan
Nelda and Doug with Cynthia in Uzbekistan, just before she met Bruce.

Bruce is from Australia but is now a United States citizen. He provides a good balance for Cynthia, as he is devilishly handsome and in possession of the charm required to sweep her off her feet. His work at The Persian Carpet involves operating the websites, the blogs, the Facebook pages, and all of the 'social media'.

The McLaren Family
Bruce, Cynthia, Mae and Dougie.

Bruce and Cynthia have two children, who represent the third generation at The Persian Carpet. Mae-Ellen is 12 years old and has inherited the fair looks of Nelda. She is no less than angelic. Dougie is 10 years old and is a rascally-rapscallion just like Doug. Somehow, he manages to get out of trouble by simply smiling at people.

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