Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Genius Behind It All Part 3: My Father

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.  

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: My Lucky Day….The Peppered Cotton Challenge In Full Effect

My Lucky Day….The Peppered Cotton Challenge In Full Effect.

Happy New Year Studioe Fans,

Today is my lucky day.  As I began my early morning workout, the light on my blackberry (yes, I still use a blackberry) lit up, signifying that I had a new message.  The fact that the light was blinking wasn’t a big deal since I get messages daily.  The big deal was the content of the message.  “Hallellujah!” I rejoiced.  What was the message?  Take a guess.  Come on.  I will give you a hint….it has to do with the Peppered Cottons (hopefully you are well aware of this fabric by now….if not I have a problem).  

Alright, enough of the suspense.  Drum roll please…the emailed message was the first submission to the Peppered Cotton Challenge.  Wow!  I was so very impressed with this first submission.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of you submit and I hope to start getting more submissions before the March 31st deadline.  

Time to stop procrastinating people.   Come on folks, it has been super cold around the US, so what better thing to do than to hit your sewing room and work on your Peppered Cotton Challenge project?  Don’t you know that the cold weather really gets your creative juices going.  I just made that up, but it sounded good.  Just go with it.

In any case, as long as this one person has submitted a project for the contest, the contest will not be a total flop.  With that, it is my lucky day someone is participating in the contest.  I am happy.  Oh, the simple things in life.  Good luck and let those submissions start rolling in.  Amen to that!

Talk soon,

Scott  

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Genius Behind It All Part 2: My Father

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive:  The Genius Behind It All

Part 2:  My Father

As my sister and I emptied out of the train and jumped into my car, we were both on edge and couldn’t get to the hospital soon enough.  I realized that one’s imagination could be one’s worst enemy.  What ifs were consuming me, but as my dad likes to say, “I don’t do what ifs.”  So I set the ‘what ifs’ aside and rushed into the hospital to see for myself my dad’s status. 

Upon seeing my dad and getting an update from doctors, I was relieved that my imagination was my worst enemy and things were certainly not as bad as what my brain had conjured up.  A sense of relief settled in to some extent.

Now it was time to get to the bottom of what was going on.  Without going into a million details, the long and the short of it was that my dad had somehow gotten blood clots throughout his body.  How?  We will probably never know.  After spending about 5 days in the hospital and taking blood thinners, among other medications, the pain subsided and he slowly got better.

As of today, January 2014, I am happy to report that my dad is back in good health and will soon be ready to fly again.  I guess I bought some time until I have to answer the question….could I run Jaftex on my own?

Hopefully that will be a story for a blog a long time from now.

Stay tuned for part 3.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Genius Behind It All Part 1: My Father

A couple of months ago, I awoke at some ungodly hour and couldn’t fall back asleep.  Rather than sit in bed rolling around thinking, I showered, got dressed, had breakfast and made a 5 am train.  I was in Manhattan by 6 am.

At 7 am, my cell phone rang and my mother asked, “where are you?” “I am in the office, believe it or not.” She said she was at the hospital with my dad.  My heart sunk.  He was having pains in his chest all night, but fortunately it wasn’t a heart attack.  She said everything would be ok and dad didn’t want anyone to visit.  That is just his way, he doesn’t really like to put people out, which is a trait I too possess.  So, I went on with my day, as best I could, staying in touch throughout.

At 3 pm, my mom called in a semi-panic insisting that my siblings and I come to the hospital immediately.  OMG!  Now I am freaking out, but in the back of my mind I keep thinking that nothing could ever happen to my dad…. he is invincible.  

 

My sister and I immediately ran to Penn Station to catch a train.  On the way over, she was an emotional wreck and kept eluding to death.  My head then started to fill up with morbidity.  My mind was now running out of control.  Not only could I be losing my amazing father, but I could also be losing my business partner and the brains behind the Jaftex Companies.

Could I run Jaftex on my own?  Was I up for the task?  These were questions I knew I would have to address one day…..I just didn’t think that day could come so soon. 

Stay tuned for part 2.