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Old partners team up at Heritage to grab share

The teacher and the student are back together.

Bob Woodcock, most recently president of the defunct fabric converter Lanscot Arlen, last month joined up with Tom Hilb, owner of Heritage House Fabrics. In 1961 Woodcock went to work for Hilb's family fabric business, and was mentor to Tom when he joined the family business in 1971.

"Bob trained me," said Hilb, and both left the company in 1975. "We're back together again, and we're working as a sales and marketing team of three along with Roger Burnim."

Hilb said that "having these knowledgeable guys is comforting to me, especially in product development." The company, which was started in 1997 by the Jeffreys of Jeffrey Fabrics, was acquired by Hilb in January. "We're so much bigger today than I ever thought it could be," Hilb said. The company will probably hit the $8 million mark in sales this year, he said.

The company's forte, Hilb explained, "is being a niche player. We started with sheers — then and now a hot category — and added embroidered sheers, another hot category."

Moving further, jacquards in faux silk looks were added to the mix. For spring 2004, "We'll have almost 100 new skus — embroidered and iridescent sheers. Heavyweight jacquards that pass upholstery performance tests will be the next category, as well as 118-inch jacquards and sheers."

While the company is primarily a converter of fabrics for window and bed coverings, "if we develop a multi-purpose fabric that works for upholstery, I'm happy about that."

Hilb attributes much of the firm's success "to having salable product that we physically have on the shelf. We service our customers and are taking market share dollars. The industry is not growing, these are not new dollars," he emphasized.

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