North Hollywood Carpeteria Genie (1997).
North Hollywood genie in 1997, before Carpeteria rolled up into bankruptcy.

Carpeteria Genies

The genie, or djinn, is a supernatural creature from ancient folklore. It appears in holy texts, as well as in The Book of 1,001 Nights, a goofy but loved 1960s sitcom, and in movie performances by the likes of Robin Williams, Will Smith, and Shaquille O'Neal (Remember Kazaam?).

North Hollywood genie.
"Alakazaam! On the back of my face is another face!"

So it was probably inevitable that the alchemy of 20th century advertising would blend the cosmic hocus-pocus of the genie with the desire to sell discount carpets.

One business, Carpeteria, operated more than two dozen stores and 40+ franchises in California and Nevada. Founded in 1960 in Santa Clarita by two brothers -- Harold and Ted Haserjian -- the retail chain hawked rugs in stores topped by 20-foot-tall Aladdin's-Lamp-style genies holding their magic carpets aloft, in convenient rolls, above their heads. And "heads" is correct, because each genie had two faces, one pointed toward each direction of traffic. It was impossible for potential rug-buyers on the road to escape the genie's penetrating stare and all-knowing smirk.

Lippy genie of Las Vegas.
The genie of Las Vegas has a weirdly lippy grin.

Reno Carpeteria genie - newer, smaller.
Reno's genie is newer and smaller, although so high that not many notice.

"Who wants to look at a genie's back side?" said Tod Swormstedt, founder of Ohio's American Sign Museum, offering a non-magical explanation for the unique two-faced figures. "If you were looking down the street and all you saw was the back, you might not know it was a genie."

Even two-faced salesmen have limits, and by 1999, a financially shaky Carpeteria had filed for bankruptcy. Although the franchised brand continues with independently-owned Carpeteria flooring businesses, the giant genies -- made by the same company that built the Muffler Men -- were a casualty. The signs were costly to preserve even if a store didn't close, and the notion of a magical being helping to fulfill your plush sunken living room dreams was probably past its time. We watched the genies gradually disappear from California towns such as Bakersfield, Downey, Reseda, Whittier, and Long Beach.

"They were up on poles, with all that wind load," said Tod. "As high as they were in the air, if the structure became unstable? You wouldn't want to be liable for a three-quarter-ton, 20-foot-tall guy taking a fall."

The good news is that a few have survived. The genie in North Hollywood, restored in 2017, is probably the most well-known, although the store now sells tile, not carpet. Two more genies endure in Nevada. The one in Las Vegas, restored in 2016, is original vintage, while a genie south of Reno is a more modern, smaller variant of the two-faced figure, probably manufactured by a different company.

Genies on their way to Ohio.
Genies on their way from California to Ohio.

American Sign Museum.
Restored genie straddles the entrance to the American Sign Museum.

Carpeteria genies have even found a place of honor at the American Sign Museum. Tod snagged a pair of the double-faced giants soon after the company closed most of its stores, and has since spent thousands of dollars on their preservation.

Fully restored and repainted, one turbaned genie now stands above the museum entrance, its carpet replaced by a "Welcome" sign. Tod eventually plans to stand the second genie out by the street, so that visitors can see both of its faces and get a better view of the genie's tricky grin.

"Whoever designed it gave it some personality," said Tod. "There's that curl of the lip, like, 'I know something you don't.' I always kind of liked that."

Visiting all the Carpeteria Genies may not make your wishes come true, but it's a good excuse for a road trip, and you might get a deal on floor covering.

Also see: Poof! When Giant Genies Appeared In Ohio

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