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'Supreme' pioneer Lou Massar retires

After 58 years in the decorative fabrics business, Lou Massar is calling it a day.

Massar, who has been one of the industry's greatest fans and supporters, wryly said, "There's a limit to endurance. I waited for my boat to come in — but the pier collapsed." As for future plans, he noted with his typical wry humor, "I can't do ballet dancing anymore because of my legs."

As director of marketing for Hoffman Mills for the past 18 years, "Massar opened markets for us," said Richard Hoffman, president of the major mill. "He is a fabulous person, a great personality and the professor of all professors — teaching all around him the ropes. "Yes, we will replace him; but it will require a bit of reorganization."

Starting after World War II when he was one of many looking for a job, Massar joined Barret Fabrics and later went into a fabric sales business with Hugh Rodham, who later gained fame as the father of Hilary Rodham Clinton.

Proudly, he said of his next 25 years with Belding Hausman, "I was the only president outside the family." He left, he noted, "because of someone married to one of the family. I left." He then went into a brief retirement before joining Hoffman.

Massar's involvement with the fabric industry extended far beyond his work with specific companies. "He was a leader in the National Curtain & Drapery Association," said Bruce Resch of Richloom and a former president of the successor Home Fashion Product Association. In addition, he was involved in the industry's activities in governmental actions "and was selfless and tireless as a volunteer in HFPA events, especially the golf and tennis outing and the jobber party. The only regret I have about Lou is that he is retiring."

Massar claims some responsibility for getting Hoffman into the jacquard business as well as wide-width fabrics for home fashions. But a really important achievement was "my involvement as the granddaddy of Supreme," a hundred-million-yard-plus drapery fabric that has been a JCPenney standard for decades.

Massar, who approached every day with a sense of humor, recalled an incident involving Mike and David Kahn of Croscill. "I was showing them prints, and they didn't like one I thought they should, so I turned it over and they loved the back — and bought it."

At this point, with 82 years coming up next month, Massar sees "awesome competitiveness in the industry. And it won't get better unless the government steps in to help."

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