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Rug wholesaler's vision creates a design mecca

A former potato chip factory houses the Decorative Arts Center, offering interior designers one-stop shopping.

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

Rugs, furniture, fabric, fine art and accessories. They're all part of the Decorative Arts Center of Florida, a Tampa design center that caters to the interior design trade.

Gary Dicus, owner of carpet and rug wholesaler Addison/Dicus Co., created the concept in 1996 after losing his space in Drew Park to Tampa International Airport.

"We didn't have neighbors doing what we do," Dicus says of the Drew Park location.

He bought three adjacent buildings just south of downtown Tampa and recruited other interior design companies to offer a one-stop shopping spot for designers.

Built in the 1920s, the former potato chip factory now houses six showrooms that comprise the Decorative Arts Center of Florida. Dicus preserved as much of the buildings' original architecture as possible. The red brick walls, wood frames, exposed ducts, skylights and wide warehouse doors remain in place. But the grease, salt and root vegetables have given way to floor coverings, furniture and home accents.

Fine arts distributor Kelsey Keller and Associates occupies the north end of the 33,000-square-foot facility. Keller sells originals on canvas and paper, limited-edition prints and poster reproductions by artists from throughout the world. Keller also offers custom framing.

Interiors Trading Co., located next to Kelsey Keller, carries more than 75,000 fabric swatches by such makers as Schumacher, Beacon Hill, Brunswick Fils, Robert Allen and Kravet. Interiors Furnishings Co., a division of Interiors Trading Co., provides wholesale, residential and commercial furniture, lighting and accessories.

Silk Route, which carries silk linens, hand-painted jute rugs and other home accessories imported from India, and Stillpoint Botanicals, a custom designer of dried and preserved floral arrangements, do business from the southern end of the Decorative Arts Center.

Addison/Dicus fills the center showroom. Dicus specializes in machine-woven wool rugs and carpets. Wool products, Dicus says, are superior to synthetics because they acquire a patina with age.

"(Wool) rugs become more and more valuable as they get older because wool becomes more and more beautiful as it gets older," he says. "That's why there's a big market in antique rugs."

The wool carpets are typically woven on a loom rather than tufted by punching the fibers into a backing. As a result, Dicus says, the carpets come in a variety of colors and woven patterns rather than having patterns printed onto the fabric. Plus, he says, the tight weave allows the carpet to hold together better and last longer than synthetic, tufted carpets.

Dicus says he strives to stock the best examples of rugs representing a vast range of weaving traditions. His inventory includes Asmara needlepoints, Tufenkian rugs from Tibet, Egyptian rugs by Megerian and Indian rugs by Aura.

Addison/Dicus also sells bamboo floor coverings and rugs woven from such natural fibers as paper, reeds and grasses, yucca leaves and coconut husks.

Stillpoint Botanicals has been a part of the center for three years, making it the Decorative Arts Center's newest member.

"It was instant business for us when we opened our doors," says Stillpoint owner Jennifer Noyes. "It's a one-stop shopping kind of thing."

"Every one of us draws for the others," Dicus adds.

The Decorative Arts Center of Florida is at 317 N Willow Ave. For information, call (813) 254-3867 or (800) 735-8444.

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