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Boca Bargoons focuses on fabrics

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, July 30, 2001

It's only natural that a third-generation upholsterer would go into the retail fabric business, or so it seemed to Ed Wolstein, owner of the growing chain of Boca Bargoons specialty fabric stores.

"I hated being an upholsterer. My talents weren't as good as my forefathers, but I had an eye for decorative fabrics," Wolstein related. So in 1990, he moved from Long Island, NY, to Florida and opened the first of what is now 12 stores. That first unit was in Boca Raton, FL, hence the name, and Bargoons was a play on bargain. There also are three stores offering trimmings only, called Trim Endless.

The stores offer a mix of reorderable fabrics from the leading converters and mills "as well as closeouts and decorators' leftovers from the high-end guys" — the designer showrooms, Wolstein said. Among them are P/Kaufmann, Covington, Waverly, Quaker and Weave in the former group. The ratio of reorderable and closeout fabrics is 50/50.

With some 4,000 rolls of fabric on hand at any given time, the chain "rotates fabric a lot, and assortment planning is a complicated process. Everything comes to Fort Myers, FL, and is distributed from there. Higher-end fabrics go to locations like Buckhead here and Palm Beach and other upper-end markets."

"We're always buying fabric, here and overseas. Imports play an important role, especially with European-quality fabrics, he reported. "The European fabrics may become even more important, and we may go into jobbing some of them."

Fabrics that don't move within a six-month period are exported or sold as flat-fold yardage, Wolstein explained. There are also clearance centers in Melbourne, FL, and Kennesaw, GA, Wolstein said. "We'd rather get rid of the slow sellers than have them hang around."

Wolstein gets some of his trend direction from the very high-end decorating magazines as well as intuitions, he said. He added, "When I see something that feels like a trend, I know it." Hot looks now, he said, are country looks, toiles, and linen solids.

With three stores now in the Atlanta market, and having recently moved his family here, Wolstein is looking to push west to Texas, with Dallas the probable first store — feasible in 2003 — and then perhaps California.

The stores range from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. "I buy all my buildings. I refuse to rent," he emphasized.

Boca Bargoons advertises weekly, mostly in newspapers with some TV and radio. "Advertising is a main part of our business," he said. The stores use no names in promoting the decorator lines but use names for the mainstream suppliers. Decorator/interior designer clientele, who receive a 10 percent discount, represent about 30 percent of the business.

The company does no fabrication but gives customers the names of recommended fabricators for window treatments, bedding, upholstery and slipcovers. "We check the fabricators before we recommend them, and if there's ever a problem they immediately come off our lists."

Boca Bargoons is a family affair and has reached down into a fourth generation related to the business. Wolstein said that his brother Paul "buys fabrics with me" and his daughter, one of four children, works in the Tampa store.

"She'll pick where she wants to open her own store," he noted.

A tall, colorful sign alerts passers-by to the Boca Bargoon stores.

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