Friday, April 15, 2016

WESCO FABRICS is CELEBRATING 70 YEARS: A Time for Expansion 1966-1986


Harry & Joline expanded to a larger Wesco Fabrics facility. They built directly across the street at 4001 Forest in 1966. This is our main warehouse and offices to this day.


Joline & her secretary in her new offices. Sam Hirschfeld custom designed all the furnishings. Her side chair was covered in mink! The desk and cabinet were made with capiz shell and the wood trim was painted a light blue, Jo's favorite color, to match the silk velvet valances and silk ball fringe on the silk draperies.



Harry is shown working at his new offices. He kept a little TV in the office so he could keep up with the news.


Harry is shown in front of the building with some of his sales team and Sam Hirschfeld (far left.) In the center is Ed Fontaine, a wonderful sales person covering Northern Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Howard Smith is at right. When I started with the company I worked with Sam. It was a real challenge as he was incredibly demanding and anti-social.  Sam was undoubtedly a genius who set up much of our custom workroom and sample departments although he left school after 8th grade as was the case for so many in his childhood!


A local newspaper in Ruston, Louisiana shows Wesco Fabrics' sales person Steve Beard presenting an award to Alexander Floor Covering. Steve STILL works for Wesco 50 years later, even though his wife thinks he is retired! I have never met a better networker and sales person! He is beloved by all his customers throughout Mississippi and Louisiana! What a personality and what a great guy!



Jim Henson (left) covered New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Howard Smith (right) covered Kansas and Missouri.  Both long term salesmen were amazing trainers. They are shown in Dallas working one of many, many trade shows that were a necessity in that era.  Jim, Howard, and Steve Beard, were the "road warriors" who traveled the U.S. in their Cadillacs. Most of the "dealers" as they were called then, were "one stop shoppers" who were loyal to Wesco only,... so they were wined and dined!


Ed Fontaine always had a great sense of humor! He sent this to me during a particularly difficult snow storm in Wyoming.

A Wesco Fabrics' catalog of 1967 showing our new 4001 forest building.


Woven wood shades were an important product for us around the country. This is from our 1967 catalog. I worked in the woven wood department for a number of years, custom designed many patterns, and expanded production to 4 factories. I still remember lifting 10' long rolls of heavy woven wood material. One of our favorite suppliers for woven wood rolls was Shades Inc. in Calistoga, California. The owner, Lee Paschich, was one of the original owners of the boutique winery, Chateau Montelena. We loved visiting Lee.





Our warehouse showroom on 4001 Forest street looked like this when I started with the company.  How about those hot-pink lambrequins?

On the phone in my office back in the day.

We built a branch warehouse in Dallas,Texas complete with custom workroom, fabric and trim stock, and a woven wood manufacturing department in 1970. 



Russ Russum (far right)was manager, with Jerry Gette (middle) running the Woven Wood department and Peggy Compton (far left) managing the offices. Russ and Jerry moved to Denver to assist us in 1992.
 

We opened another Dallas showroom at Oak Lawn Plaza and moved Peggy Compton there as manager. How about those intense colors?



Harry Weiss and Peggy on one of his Dallas visits.



Our California branch in Irvine California opened in 1971.

Marla and her dad at the opening of the California warehouse and showroom.

We brought our one year old daughter Lisa with us as well. Lisa is on our Board of Directors today.

The design of the California warehouse showroom was a great project. The columns were made from wood tambour.

Lori Conway started with us in the Irvine branch credit department in the 1970's. She later became and still is our Southern California sales representative. Her customers love her spirit, knowledge, and friendliness. We love her as well!

Our warehouse in Columbus Ohio, completed in 1976, was a fun project to work on. I made numerous trips to meet with the architect and contractor. As times changed with faxes, toll-free numbers, and faster delivery options, it was no longer necessary to have regional warehouses. We closed this warehouse and have leased it to the same tenant since 1986.

Designing the Ohio warehouse was a blast! I designed all the furniture and had it built by a craftsman in Denver. Love the acrylic chairs in the foreground.

Our Columbus warehouse open house party was attended by many of our area customers and suppliers from New York. L-R: Me, Al Jackson, Chris Boggs ( Still working for Richloom Fabrics.), Al Cohen, Dan Tully ( Still works with his son Matt in Dallas.) and Arnie Mazarsky. Joline insisted on bringing her own silver serving bowls for the party.


This shows our full sample assortment in the 1980's. Wesco sold primarily to brick and mortar stores who purchased their samples.  Our large accounts included May Company, JC Penney, Dillards, and Joslins.


Harry founded the Fabric Distributors Association of America in 1981.


The Custom Workroom began as the "Pillow Department" to utilize the small pieces of fabric at the end of the bolt. We still make pillows here as well as custom bedspreads, shades, cornices, valances, headboards, screens, and custom drapery in the adjacent modern workroom.

Harry & Joline named me president of Wesco Fabrics in 1984. Harry used to say he retired but what this really meant was arriving in his office an hour later in the morning,...every day!

Group picture 1985. L-R: Joe Rittgers (vice president), Joline (C.E.O.), Harry, and me.

Joline with her new Rolls in 1985. Love the "JOLINE" license plate! Harry didn't approve of Joline's purchase, but he had fun with it, and put on a black cap and drive us around pretending he was a chauffeur. One time he drove my family to Burger King in the Rolls and paid for our lunch with discount coupons. He always stressed the importance of saving money. He was a REALLY smart man!!!

 Harry & Joline at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs on New Year's eve 1985.

Harry passed away on January 15, 1986. As the guiding light of ethics and honesty at Wesco, he was a expert businessman and wonderful human being. He founded the Fabric Distributors Association of America and always liked working with competitors and suppliers. He loved being with people.  His strength was the financial end of the business and enjoyed numbers just as Marla does to this day!


This was a very sad time for our family and employees!

In New York City our competitors and suppliers turned out for a tribute to Harry Weiss, founder and first president of the Fabric Distributors Association of America. 

Images: Wesco Fabrics, Dick Gentry


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