Handmade: Owners of Haberman Fabrics set to retire
When news spread that Toby Haberman of Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak was retiring, there was a feeling of despair throughout the local sewing community. But once customers learned the store wasn’t closing, and they would still have the same friendly service, knowledgeable employees, and the wide selection of high-quality fabrics they’ve grown accustomed to, there was a huge sigh of relief. Sewing machines were in full gear, once again.
The “soon-to-be owner” is longtime Haberman Fabrics’ employee Patty Weir of Washington, who’s planning to move the nearly 60-year-old business to a new location — somewhere in Clawson.
“I couldn’t have found a better person,” said Haberman, speaking by phone from her home in Birmingham, while taking a break from her sewing project — a red silk velvet jacket. “I feel she’s a daughter to me. She has the right attitude. She has tremendous knowledge. She’ll be carrying the torch. I’ve known her since she was 19, and she’s a superb dressmaker. She’s gentle, kind and warm with people. She’ll carry on the same feel we have in the store.”
Haberman, 72, said having the store afforded her the opportunity to surround herself with the things she loves and “wonderful” people. “I have met so many delightful people, and people who sew because they love it, or people whose lives have really been enriched by it, and people who get excited about the same things I do, even if they have different tastes. There are customers who I remember hearing about their children, and then you hear about their children’s lives and their aging parents.
“What’s important to me is that we continue the same sense of community,” she added. “There won’t be as much space between the aisles. The old (current) store was a 19,000-square-foot, and it was a mistake in this age to have that kind of space. When we first got this store, retailing was stronger. In 2002, the internet was not what it is today. That does curtail a lot of business because we do not have a large presence online — and don’t want one. People contact us from everywhere, but we’re not set up to be a warehouse marketing business.
“There’s just a handful of stores around the country that have a broad range of fabric for people to select from, and we offer things that are unique. A chain store has to have something that’s produced for a chain store, and buy enormous quantities, so you lose the unique, the original and the quality. We provide that, and we provide guidance to the customer. If you’re buying in a mass market kind of store, chances are you’re not getting the guidance of skilled sewers.”
Carol Pruitt of Southfield, who makes wedding gowns, prom dresses and evening wear, has been a Haberman customer since “forever.” She’s worried the new store won’t have the same high standard of fabric. “I have my ear to the ground on all fabric stores, and I’d heard someone was taking over, and had bought the name, but are they going to have the same kind of fabric? I deal with lace and silks — just real fancy fabrics — and we just don’t have anywhere else in the area that has that quality.”
Haberman knows some customers are a bit “upset,” but, “when they find out the store is not closing, and when we reassure them that it may not be me in the store, but they’ll still have access to what’s in the store, they wish me well,” she said.
Haberman Fabrics opened in 1958, under the ownership of Pearl and David Haberman, parents of Sam Haberman, who married Toby in 1969. At the time, it was called House of Fabrics. Sam’s sister, Sandra, later joined the small business in the Old Redford area of Detroit. After his father’s passing and graduate school, Sam joined the business, and in the mid-’70s, Pearl and Sandra left, and that’s when Toby got involved. Then, sometime in the mid-’80s, the couple changed the company name to Haberman Fabrics.
The Habermans later moved their growing business to a location on Fourth Street in Royal Oak. After 21 years, the business had outgrown the space, and more customer parking was needed, so they renovated a 19,000-square-foot building at 905 S. Main in downtown Royal Oak, where it has been the past 15 years.
The store is currently holding a “retirement/moving sale” with many items priced at a 40 percent discount. All printed knits are 50 percent off, along with carded buttons and a new shipment of fall fabrics. The sale will continue through mid-November.
“Some things will be reduced even further,” said Haberman, who’s planning to spend her retirement studying ceramics and enjoying her two “wonderful” granddaughters, ages 3 and 5. “I also expect to do some volunteer work in the community.”
The new Haberman Fabrics is expected to open around the beginning of 2018. (Congratulations, Toby and Sam!)
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Haberman Fabrics (905 S. Main, Royal Oak) at (248) 541-0010 or habermanfabrics.com.