Family-owned Mitchell Fabrics closing shop after 70 years
'It's been an experience. It's been a community,' says fabric artist Willow Rector
It is the end of an era for a cornerstone Winnipeg fabric business on Main Street.
For more than 70 years Mitchell Fabrics has been the destination for anyone who sews.
Paula Mitchell, co-owner and general manager, said the decision to close was difficult. Managers are getting too old, the industry is not as robust and they couldn't find a buyer, she said.
"We certainly feel sadness," Mitchell said. "But we try to balance it out with knowing that we've had a great run. We've served the community well."
Known for selection and pricing, Mitchell's late uncle, Mendel Mitchell, opened the store at Main and Logan in 1946.
When she joined the business in the mid-80s, Mitchell admits she knew little about sewing or the fabric industry.
"This business won my heart," she said. "It is a place filled with fabulous fabrics but it's also filled with history and when you walk in the door, somehow you sense the roots."
'It's very emotional'
On Tuesday, when it was announced the store was liquidating, loyal customers flocked to the Main Street fixture.
"It's very emotional," Willow Rector told CBC News.
The textile artist has been buying her supplies at the store for years. She recalled visiting the shop as a little girl with her grandparents.
"People think, 'Well it's a store' ... but it's not. For those of us who come here a lot it's more than that. It's been an experience. It's been a community," she said.
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Wedding dress designer Cathy Wiebe visits Mitchell Fabrics several times a week for her materials. She, too, was devastated by the news.
"The fabric stores have slowly been closing — the good ones — over the years, so you know that it's kind of a dying trade," she said. "At the same time, I was kind of hoping they'd stay forever."
Wiebe said there will be no place for her to turn but the internet for the specialty fabrics she purchases for clients. On Tuesday she stocked up on lace and came to wish the family well.
"I hope that they can leave on a good feeling that everybody loved them," she said.
There is no official closing date and the space is not yet for sale. Mitchell said she hopes whatever business calls the store home next keeps the area moving forward.
"I think what we have to hope for is as much vibrancy and street traffic as we can find ... this is a major corner," she said. "It would be absolutely lovely if there was some component of indigenous culture here, it would fit beautifully."