Joann Fabrics: a crafty idea

From a cheese shop to fabrics

It started with a little cheese shop in Cleveland and became a nationwide chain of 872 fabric and craft stores–yep, that’s Joann.

Joann Store Map

Joann Store Map

Joann’s 872 U.S. Store Locations

What has cheese got to do with fabrics and crafts?

When German immigrants, Hilda and Berthold Reich and their friends, Sigmund and Mathilda Rohrbach opened their little cheese shop in Cleveland in 1943, they had no idea that one day it would become the nation’s leading chain of fabric and craft stores.  In fact, the fabric was just an add-on product, while cheese was their main focus. The fabric sold so well that they opened a second store. They didn’t have enough money to buy more fabric to stock the second shop, so they split the full bolts from the first shop into two to supply both stores.  Eventually, they discontinued cheese and changed the store name to
Cleveland Fabric Shop.

By 1969, they had further expanded and changed the name to Joann Fabrics, which was created by combining the names of the daughters from both families: Joan and Jacqueline Ann. In 1969, Jo-Ann Fabrics became a publicly held corporation traded on the American Stock Exchange under the name of Fabri-Centers of America, Inc.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s were the years of the Women’s Liberation Movement, when more and more women went to work outside the home. Consequently, home sewing declined and so did the sales of retail fabrics. Department stores eliminated their fabric and notions departments, reducing the number of retail fabric outlets by almost half from 1977 to 1983. This was good news for fabric stores which were able to capture the sales market.

During the 1970’s, Joann Fabrics stores were located in shopping malls. However, by the 1980’s, most of their stores were in stand-alone buildings. It was during these years that they added crafts and floral to the product lines.

Still expanding…

In 1998, Fabri-Centers acquired House of Fabrics, which also operated as FabriclandFabric King, and So-Fro Fabrics.

In September 2012, Jo-Ann Stores introduced Project Runway season six contestant Christopher Straub as the spokesperson for National Sewing Month (September).

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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