Closing the curtains on the Fabric Centre

I grew up in the family business: fabric and drapery stores in Winnipeg that my parents founded. To us the Fabric Centre was more than a retail operation, it was like another sibling and everyone in my family both lived with it and worked there.  

I started doing the store’s books when I was 12 and moved up to stock boy, sample organizer and eventually ‘high-priced help’ as my Dad used to say.  Time was, I could close my eyes, rub any fabric and tell you whether it was pure cotton, wool, silk or a blend.

This is the Fabric Centre’s final month.  My sister, who took over some years ago, decided to close it because the world has changed; fewer people sew and clothes are a lot cheaper so why spend the time making them yourself.  It was a tough decision, and I believe it’s the right one.  The Winnipeg Free Press caught wind of the news and wrote this story.

I was feeling nostalgic thinking about it and realized I learned a lot of social media lessons from the store:

  1. Listening comes first.  According to My Dad you never said ‘Can I help you’ to a customer because their automatic response is, ‘No thanks, I’m just looking’.  Instead he encouraged them to look around for a few minutes while he quietly watched. When he approached them, he’d noticed what they’d been drawn to and found a way to mention it in a conversation. All of a sudden he went from salesperson to someone who was there to help.
  2. It’s all about community. My Dad believed the customer was always right. (For a long time, I disagreed, but being in the agency biz, you can see I came around to his perspective.) He was charming, didn’t argue with people and if he didn’t have what someone was looking for, he’d suggest a place they could find it. And because of that people trusted him and kept returning. Later they brought their daughters and grandaughters, too.  And before you knew it, he created a real community.
  3. You have to know how to measure. Taken literally, that meant yards or metres of fabrics. Measuring too liberally meant you lost money; too tight and people wouldn’t be able to properly cut out their pattern.  The other measure my Dad used was that he wanted to make sure as many people as possible left with bags. Both were directly tied to the bottom line.

I learned a few more things – including how to help people choose drapes and blinds.  And I’m still available for estimates.

So long, Fabric Centre. It’s been a great run!

About Martin Waxman


Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, content marketer, social media trainer and instructor and co-founder of three PR agencies. He blogs at myPALETTE and hosts the Inside PR podcast.

7 comments
made to measure curtains
made to measure curtains

I am thinking of changing the draperies of my home so looking for the nice store to get the one which i am looking for. I will definitely visit your store..

Naomi Broudo
Naomi Broudo

Martin,
I am, as you can imagine, crying. Our dad's were of a different era. They taught us things, that are hard to quantify. Both of our dad's had businesses that were very special and will forever be remembered in the fabric (no pun intended) of Winnipeg's history.

I am sad to hear that the store will be closing. But happy for you that you had this opportunity to write this wonderful story.

Happy Birthday and happy memories. Thanks for sharing.

Baruch
Baruch

Thanks for sharing cuz.....

Bill Smith
Bill Smith

Thanks for sharing Martin, never easy ending a chapter in family history.

Martin Waxman
Martin Waxman

Thanks Naomi. Our Dads sure taught us a lot. I always felt like the Great Depression was a real reality and think that it and many other 'Dad' lessons informs me everyday. It's funny when we became parents and understood them a bit more.

I also learned how to dress from two people: my dad and yours... Both were originals with a true sense of style!

Martin Waxman
Martin Waxman

Thanks Bill. Things change, but you can't deny it's an emotional time!

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