Friday, September 19, 2008

Fabric Place to close final two stores in Framingham and Woburn

By Dan McDonald
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Sep 05, 2008 @ 11:19 AM
FRAMINGHAM —

Fabric Place the family-operated shop that wove itself into the town's consciousness over six decades is closing.

Thursday, Alexander Vezina, the company's CEO, confirmed the 30,000 square-foot store at 136 Howard St. will likely close by the beginning of November.

For the past several days, shoppers perused merchandise, grabbing discounted balls of yarn in a variety of hues or marked-down sewing machines.

Vezina attributed the closing to the sagging economy.

He said Fabric Place saw a drop in sales of about 3-5 percent two years ago. This year he called the decrease, "a bit more dramatic."

With the company dissolving and closing its Framingham and Woburn Mall locations, about 150 workers will lose their jobs.

"We encountered soft sales in a very difficult economy. I think furniture stores ... and fabric stores are failing," said Vezina.

He said the company concluded it would be best to bow out, "while we're still financially healthy."

He estimated the company still has $6 million worth of inventory, all of which is being discounted 25 to 50 percent, according to the company's Web site.

"Our intent is to take care of our associates, customers, and vendors. That's why we're doing this," said Vezina.

In fall 2006, things were different. That year Vezina told the Daily News the company's revenue had grown an average of 7 percent annually for each of the previous 15 years. Earlier this decade, the company was at its peak, with seven stores in New England and 400 employees.

The company has since downsized.

Two years ago the Cromwell, Conn., store was the first to go.

Last year, Randolph and Warwick, R.I., locations, as well as its Boston custom showroom, which offers consultation services but no inventory, folded.

Within the last month, a showroom in Newton closed.

This final Fabric Place development would conclude the tale of a home-grown company that expanded from a 3,000-square-foot Kendall Street shop to the largest fabric chain in New England.

Once described as a "Home Depot for women," the store offers a myriad of fabrics quilts, drapes, yarns, upholstery and fashion wear.

The company also offers classes in sewing, decorating, needle arts and crafts, according to its Web site.

Launched by Framingham twins Annie Isaacson and Betty Weitzler in 1946, it was originally called Sportswear Manufacturing Co. Two of their sons continue to be involved in the management of the company.

The company moved from Kendall Street to its present location in the early 1950s.

Its name changed in the early 1980s as the focus shifted fully to fabrics.

"We gave it our best shot," said Vezina.

(Dan McDonald can be reached at 508-626-4416 or dmcdonal@cnc.com.)

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