The Genius Behind It All Part 3: My Father
Now that my dad survived this ordeal with the blood clots, I wanted to delve into more detail as to why he is the brains behind Jaftex.
In 1930, my great-grandfather, Jacob A. Fortunoff started Jaftex.
He mainly dealt in flannelette and cotton fabrics. So of course he gets the credit for starting the business. Jacob had 3 sons, but only two ended up in the business, Dan (my uncle) and Everett (my grandfather). As time went on, the mainstay of the business became women’s lingerie and various types of sleepwear. Uncle Dan’s son, Glenn, and my dad, Robert, each joined the business too. My dad started working for Jaftex when he was 17. I am not sure exactly when Glen started, but I think it was when he was in his twenties.
At that time the businesses included Jaftex, E-D Knitting (named after E-verett and D-an), Bertenn Textile (named after Ro-bert and Gl-enn), Andrea Knitting (named after my dad’s sister) and Oxford Printing and Finishing (a textile mill in Oxford, North Carolina). Recall my earlier blogs about working at the plant in Oxford, North Carolina.
Sometime in the 1980’s, my dad started to make his big moves. First he bought out his uncle, Dan, and cousin, Glenn. Thereafter, my dad, and to a lesser degree, my grandfather, were the owners with my dad running the show.
The timing wasn’t great because much of the lingerie and sleepwear business started moving overseas, but this is where the real genius comes in to play.
In the ensuing years, my dad made some critical business decisions that would shape Jaftex to what it is today. What you will notice is that almost all the companies were purchased and that is why there are so many different names used. The big question is whether my dad had the foresight to get out of the lingerie business and into the over the counter business or was he just lucky? I guess at this point, the answer doesn’t really matter because dad is being credited for being the genius either way, but I think he had the foresight.
In no particular order,
- He bought A.E. Nathan which owned a plant in the Carolinas. A.E. Nathan primarily sold fabric to the retail chains as it still does today.
- He purchased Henry Glass Fabrics which was the first foray into the over-the-counter quilt shop only business.
- He purchased the Stylemaker which specialized in yarn dyed flannels from Portugal.
- He purchased Chanteclaire Fabrics which was another company in the quilt shop only business specializing in reproductions.
- He hired a gentleman from JP Stephens who brought over a book of business that he built up with the chains when JP Stephens went bankrupt. He specialized in sourcing fabrics from India. That was the first foray into sourcing fabrics from India.
Recall from previous blogs that I visited India with this gentleman. At some point, my dad closed the two plants that we owned and starting working with SNS, a contract warehouse. This decision also proved to be prescient as we never did well running plants, dealing with unions and labor or running businesses that we could not be intimately involved. The distance between New York and the Carolinas proved to be a major hurdle. All of this happened between the 1980’s and the early 2000’s.
More recently, we purchased Fabric Editions in 2011 from which we spun out the Studioe division. So as of 2014, the business looks like this:
- Studioe Fabrics sells to quilt shops only worldwide.
- A.E. Nathan continues to sell mainly to the chains.
- Henry Glass sells to quilt shops only worldwide.
- Fabric Editions specializes in pre-cut fabrics mostly for the chains.
All of the other companies were absorbed into what remains to be the current structure.
I hope you enjoyed some of the history of our family business. I look forward to what lies ahead and hope one day that someone can write about what I did to shape the company.
In the meantime, stay tuned for our 85th anniversary celebrations at the 2015 Houston Quilt Market.