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Handmade: Low price draws sewing fans to fabric outlet

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

At just $2.99 a yard, the price is amazingly right, and it attracts customers from near and far.

“Yesterday, we had people drive two and three hours to get to us,” says Paul Foltyn, owner of Discount Fabric Outlet (250 E. 14 Mile in downtown Clawson) with wife Leah. “People are willing to come to us because they can’t find this concept anywhere else. They’ll come to you when there’s a deal. ”

In 1960, Foltyn’s father, Andrew Foltyn, started a wholesale decorative fabric company, Andrew Foltyn Inc., which grew to a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Troy. The business later included showrooms in the Michigan Design Center and the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and they had nine sales people who traveled to 25 states as distributors back in the ’80s and ’90s. They later had retail stores in Warren, Utica, Lansing and Flint.

After 40-plus years of having the family-owned wholesale distributor, Foltyn transitioned the business his father started about nine years ago into a 7,000-square-foot retail outlet in Warren (Fabric Warehouse). The store, which offers strictly high-end home decor fabrics, priced from $3.99-$13.99 a yard, is now owned and operated by their son, Bradley. But then, not so long ago, Foltyn and his wife decided they wanted something to do again, so in January they opened Discount Fabric Outlet, and business has been “great.”

Foltyn says, “This outlet is driven by price. Everything is $2.99 a yard. In the ’80s and ’90s, when we had fabric stores, everything was $1. Well, that $1 is equivalent to what we’re selling it for now at $2.99.”

The 4,200-square-foot store, located in what was once a shoe store, is filled with a variety of apparel, upholstery and drapery fabrics. How do they do it? “We buy overruns, closeouts and discontinues, and we buy it by the truck(load),” explains Foltyn. “Nothing can be special ordered. What comes in, goes out. We buy up stuff, and we sell it.” He says they even get some from clothing manufacturers who bought too much fabric.

The Foltyns are able to maintain their super-low price point because of several reasons – they have only one (part-time) employee, and they’re hands-on business owners who measure and cut the fabric, vacuum and clean the place themselves and devote the entire store space to merchandise. “It’s all store – there are no offices,” says Foltyn. They do, however, hire an independent company to come in and unload the eight truckloads of fabric they expect to receive each year.

Shoppers are thrilled at the price and eager to make purchases, he says. “We always have customers. We don’t have a low spot in the day. People always come into the store. They’re not shopping price – they’re shopping, ‘How is this going to look with my couch or rug?’”

Foltyn adds, “We have 5,000 people on our email list. We just let them know when we get a shipment in. We don’t advertise.” Nor do they hand-pick what comes in, but they do “know in generality” what type of fabric is being sent.

Detroit seamstress Carole D. Tucker, who frequents the outlet “more than necessary,” says, “I have purchased fabric from California to New York, but I still look forward to my weekly visits to Discount Fabric Outlet. Paul and Leah are always friendly, helpful and honest.”

And fiber artist Rosie Chapman of Washington Township says, “The fabrics at Discount Fabric Outlet are of top quality and value. Also, it helps me with creating unique art quilts with fabrics that I can’t find in other fabric stores.”

(See you at Discount Fabric Outlet!)

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit Crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or


Contact Discount Fabric Outlet (250 E. 14 Mile, Clawson) at (248) 583-0101 or