Iran native Ben Raisdana was in business in Wichita before he ever lived in Wichita.
In 1954, his oldest brother, Ali, came here to attend Wichita State University. He became an engineer and worked for Cessna Aircraft until he was laid off in 1968. That’s when he started a rug company, Persian Bazaar, with help from Ben Raisdana, who began shipping rugs to him.
In 1973, Ben Raisdana came to Wichita to visit.
“I decided to stay,” he says. That’s because he learned that “life is much easier … than back home. You can work and make money.”
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That’s what he did with Persepolis Oriental Rugs and then Pars Oriental Rug Gallery, which Ben Raisdana is now closing so he can retire.
He’s not trying to sell the business because he doesn’t think he could find someone who could afford it.
Instead, he’s having a closing sale with 60 to 70 percent off the store’s handmade rugs.
“Hopefully after that, I can sell the building,” Raisdana says.
It’s at 2919 E. Douglas and is about 5,000 square feet with an apartment in the back.
Both of Raisdana’s stores were named for places in Persia, which is what Iran used to be known as.
The first opened in 1978 and closed in 1997 when Raisdana got colon cancer. He put his building on the market.
“Thanks God I didn’t get any offer for it,” he says.
His health came back, and Raisdana found he didn’t like not working.
“I found out that staying at home is probably making me more sick.”
Retiring will be different, he says. The chief difference is he’s 70. Also, his two children are grown.
Raisdana says he asked his son, Behnam, if he’d like to carry on the family business. He declined and said he wanted to become a doctor.
“I told him, you know, this is your life. It’s up to you. … I wish you the best.”
Behnam Raisdana now is an emergency room physician in Kansas City.
Ben Raisdana’s daughter, Behnaz, is a dentist in Wichita.
Raisdana says he’s happy for his children and proud of them. Their success reaffirms his decision to move here and open a business.
“Always I was thinking about the future. The United States is much, much better for my kids. … Wichita was great for me and for my family.”
His wife, Mahnaz, received a master’s degree from WSU and was an engineer at Cessna for 22 years before getting laid off in 2009.
Now, the two are planning to travel.
“We love to go and travel together,” Ben Raisdana says.
Egypt and Greece are tops on his list.
“There’s lots more places I would like to go.”
First, he has to close the business. It’ll probably be open for another month or two before everything is sold. It’s not much of a wait compared to the last several years when Raisdana says he was ready to retire.
“For years and years, I was thinking about it,” he says. “I wasn’t able to do it.”
Even though he’s been eager to retire, Raisdana says he’s thankful for the store.
“I was so lucky,” he says. “This business was really great for me.”