Friday, April 8, 2016

WESCO FABRICS is Celebrating 70 YEARS: THE BEGINNING YEARS 1946-1966





The dream began on a dance floor in Denver. Harry & Joline Weiss wanted to start their own window covering business and it became a reality; "In 1946 we had $4,000 and lots of hope." Wesco Fabrics celebrates 70 years in business this year which is quite an achievement! The company has played a huge role in my life ever since I moved from California to work for Marla's parents. The story of Wesco Fabrics is a rich tapestry of hard work, struggle, innovation, & entrepreneurship. Please join me as I showcase how the company grew from humble retail beginnings as Weiss Venetian Blinds in Denver to being a nationally recognized wholesaler of decorative fabrics and custom window coverings. 


Joline Weiss was the creative person in the company and Harry was the numbers and sales expert. This is a great picture of Joline wearing a skirt made from aluminum venetian blind slats at a 1947 trade show.

Joline Weiss sits at her desk at 3000 Larimer Street in Denver. Note the screens made from woven bamboo. Woven woods later became an important part of our product mix in the 60's and 70's. 

A Rocky Mountain News article featured Wesco Fabrics. In 1951 Harry & Joline saw a trend for a boom in the use of fabrics in decorating windows. Joline is shown with a "caddy" fabric sample with removable fabric headers. She always had great instincts and was definitely a risk taker. Moving from venetian blinds to fabric and draperies was one of many consumer changes that continue to this day.

 Joline presents new print fabrics in 1957.

This display rack shows some of the Wesco Fabrics' prints from 1957. Take a look at the Mid-Century Modern style prints. Very "Jetsons" don't you think?

In 1958 Harry & Joline still made shades under "Weiss Venetian Blind Co." The blind business was fading with the popularity of fabric custom draperies.  Decades later the blind business ramped up again with sales of Levolor 1" mini blinds.  Today a mini blind at the window is a rarity indeed!


It was an exciting day when they broke ground on a new warehouse and offices at 4000 Forest Street near Stapleton Airport in Denver.  The building was completed in 1957. Today this building is Furniture Row's Nascar Racing Facility.



The Rocky Mountain News (a newspaper sadly long gone) gave Harry & Joline and Wesco Fabrics good press on their new building.

Joline loved her new office at 4000 Forest Street! It featured outline quilted fabric walls and coved carpeting. The office was designed by Sam Hirschfeld who was creative on many levels. Sam worked for Wesco Fabrics for many years and was famous for his ingenuity,...and his terrible temper!


Joline looks very proud and beautiful in her new office. You can tell where Marla gets her beauty genes.


This is Harry's office with grass cloth wallpaper and his favorite fish tank. 




This was our showroom at 4000 Forest Street in Denver. Sam custom designed all the furniture. It is amazing to think that this is almost 60 years ago! Lovers of Mid-Century Modern furniture would think the designs are very cool.


Custom window decorators and friends were invited to the open house party at 4000 Forest Street. Howard Smith, shown on far right, was a renowned sales professional calling on customers in Kansas & Missouri. Joline's youngest daughter, Lora Carlile, meets a Wesco client. She worked for Wesco in sales for many years.

The Rocky Mountain News always gave Wesco Fabrics good press!


This is an early advertisement.


An early traditional cotton print is displayed on this rack in the showroom.

An article in the Rocky Mountain News shows Harry Weiss (2nd from right) in the warehouse at 4000 Forest Street. Harry was a natty dresser and always wore a suit or jacket with a tie.


A customer of Howard Smith in Kansas advertised for a Wesco Fabrics' drapery clinic and line showing.


This is a hanger header for displaying print fabrics. A hook went through the center hole and the sample hung on a display rack.

To be continued in the next Gentry Connects blog.

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