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Photo by Riverwood Photography

Not all treasures are buried. Many are on tasteful, elegant and dazzling display, for irresistible browsing, at Rubaiyat, the popular shop on Calgary’s iconic 17th Avenue.

In fact, some say Rubaiyat is a treasure trove. From the antique display cases collected over the years from Birks, Banff Springs and private collections, to the vintage cash till from the Calgary stables, the warm and welcoming atmosphere is created.

Artisans such as Anzie, Armenta, Gurhan, Match pewter, Satava art glass, Kostantino, Jonathan Adler, Michael Aram, Robert Held, Chilewhich, Kingsley Bate and many more are represented. There are exclusive candles from Baobab, personal care products from Lothantique and seasonal fragrance favourites.

“For our family and for many of our customers, Rubaiyat is more than a store. “Some people say it’s a gallery,” says Pam Haight, the high-energy and charming Rubaiyat co-owner. “And some say it’s a museum!” co-owner and spouse David chuckles with affection.

No doubt about it. The fabulous selection of beautiful Rubaiyat items is undisputably the focal point and main attraction of the elegant and bedazzling 8,500+ square foot, Calgary business and retail success story.

But the true Rubaiyat uniqueness is the atmosphere, the warmth, the friendliness and the knowledgeable passion of the Haight family – Pam, David, daughter Morgan, son Crosby and the Rubaiyat staff.

A vital aspect of Rubaiyat’s appeal and enduring 50 years of success is being a well-known and respected family business, as well as a Calgary landmark. “It started just as a wild idea,” Pam recalls. “We put one foot in front of another, did our best, learned a lot of lessons, met some amazingly wonderful people and, after all these years, we still enjoy working together.”

A key aspect of the Rubaiyat secret is that family is always in the store. And we are so very blessed and fortunate to spend our days with a real diversity of nice, interesting and pleasant people who have all kinds of different wants and needs and tastes. Of course, Rubaiyat is a business. But it is very much a people business. “People – drop-in browsers or loyal customers – still make each day a pleasure and an experience,” she says.

Morgan Haight doubles as Rubaiyat’s globetrotting jewelry and other treasures buyer, and also manages aspects of the family business’ operations. She admits that understanding what Rubaiyat customers would like is vital, and working with hundreds of artists, dealing with suppliers and scouring trade shows around the world can get overwhelming, but is an occupation pleasure.

Then the retail reality kicks in. “Especially with so much mass production, and e-commerce and online shopping being such hot phenomenons, and it’s probably here to stay, but I think people are gradually recognizing the limitations of online shopping.”

“I am convinced that people are much more savvy and more knowledgeable than ever, about the specialness of unique and handmade quality. They do their research, they ask questions, they know where and how it’s made. They know what they like. Being a small business and making it personal is a valuable retail advantage,” she explains. “Customers are attaching more meaning to the things they buy. And Rubaiyat is a personalized much more special way of shopping.”

Pam agrees that “people are becoming a bit jaded and more aware about the pitfalls of online shopping. Yes, it may be more convenient and quicker, but the Rubaiyat experience is so much more, in every way. Our customers browse, pick things up, touch it, feel it, give it a close look and get expert answers to their questions. After all, it’s not just clicking on an item. Browsing and shopping in Rubaiyat is an event.

“Besides,” she flashes a warm smile, “lots of people come in just to enjoy the ambience and browse. It’s their happy place.”

In Calgary, as in most areas, retail is not only a fiercely competitive business sector, but small business retail can be particularly challenging. Perfecting the customer experience, dealing with the competition, supply chain issues, the rising costs of doing business and other speedbumps matter.

Rubaiyat’s solid success allows the Haight family to focus on the business’ strengths and doing what they do best. The uniqueness of the Rubaiyat quality. The Rubaiyat selection. The Rubaiyat service. The warm and friendly Rubaiyat people-touch. And earning the trust of loyal Rubaiyat customers.

“The longevity of our service, as well as our terrific 17th Ave landmark location are huge attractions for Rubaiyat’s presence, profile, popularity and success,” says the upbeat and positive Morgan Haight. “And always keeping in mind that the familiar retail basic is proven and true: The return customer is vitally important!”

David Haight prefers to be behind-the-scenes of the popular family business, wise and focused with much retail and business expertise. “Calgary has become a very sophisticated market. People travel the world, they have excellent taste and they are particular and selective about what they like, what they want and how they want it. Calgary has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and it is a dynamic and a very healthy business environment. Ultimately, Rubaiyat’s strength is our service. It’s something you could never find online,” he adds.

“I realize the power of e-commerce, and that many businesses are okay to operate with clicks and texts. We work hard at being different and special. We are personal. We always go the extra mile, acknowledging the customer, providing expertise, service and quality.”

He gets slightly emotional and points out, “We have been in Calgary for 50 years, and I suppose we’re a staple. We have endured five recessions and succeeded.”

For decades, David Haight has also earned a reputation, and a loyal following, for the art of customized stained-glass windows. “It started as a quirky fluke request from a few customers, and it has caught on, in a big way,” he says.

Today, Rubaiyat features its own Stained-Glass Studio. David, son Crosby and local, skilled craftsmen create custom designed stained-glass commissions for architectural, religious and residential Calgary customers, and have designed, fabricated and restored literally thousands of square feet of stained, beveled, etched and painted glass. The Studio is also the largest supplier of stained glass in Western Canada.

Pam Haight mirrors the Rubaiyat uniqueness. She is blunt, candid, genuine and from the heart. “Our business has never been driven by money. It’s just a nice and unique space, offering special and wonderful items.”

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