From one 1400-square-foot store in 1943 to almost 1,000 United States locations today-employing more than 20,000 people-Jo-Ann Stores, Inc., has not only witnessed a creative explosion in sewing and crafts, it has helped inspire it.
Hilda and Berthold Reich, along with their friends, Sigmund and Mathilda Rohrbach, founded the business in 1943. Both immigrant couples from Nazi Germany, they came to Cleveland, Ohio, to start a new life. Mr. Reich had been importing cheese in a small east-side storefront when the Rohrbachs approached him to sell fabrics. (The Rohrbachs' son, Max, was a fabric salesman whose company offered to supply them with remnants to start.)
They soon pushed cheese to the back and opened the doors of the first Jo-Ann store, then named the Cleveland Fabric Shop. Over the next five years and after the death of Sigmund Rohrbach, Hilda Reich and Alma Zimmerman (the Rohrbach's daughter) became the mainstays of the business. They cultivated the customer base, doubled their space and added a drapery workroom in the basement. In 1948, with the opening of a second Cleveland store, the Reichs' daughter, Betty, and her new husband, Martin Rosskamm, began delivering fabric bolts every Saturday.
Further expansion in the 1950s and 1960s led to a new name, Jo-Ann Fabrics, which the families came up with by combining the names of their daughters, Joan Zimmerman and Jacqueline Ann Rosskamm. By 1969, the business had grown to 169 stores in 28 states and had become a publicly held corporation, trading on the American Stock Exchange under the name of Fabri-Centers of America, Inc. In 1976, it joined the New York Stock Exchange. In 1999, the corporate name was changed to Jo-Ann Stores, Inc.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Jo-Ann Stores joined the shopping mall bandwagon by opening its own 4,000-square-foot stores in regional malls.
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jo-Ann Stores had left the malls for larger stores and strip shopping centers; some stores had added crafts and floral products to the mix.
In 1994, Fabri-Centers of America acquired Clothworld, a 342-store, southern-based company. At the time of the acquisition, Fabri-Centers of America, Inc. operated 655 stores, primarily located in the northern United States.
The year 1995 marked another turning point when Jo-Ann opened a 46,000-square-foot test store, adjacent to its Cleveland headquarters, stocked with every imaginable creative item to "serve and inspire creativity." The store became the pilot for the larger format Jo-Ann superstores.
To give customers 24-hour-a-day access to creative projects and products, the joann.com web site was launched in 1997. The site is designed to be a resource for sewing & crafting enthusiasts and offers content that is informational, trendy, inspiring and fun.
In 1998, Fabri-Centers of America acquired House of Fabrics. The company then changed its corporate name to Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. and re-grand-opened all of its stores under the Jo-Ann name. Shares are traded in the New York Stock Exchange under the initials JAS.
During 1999, Jo-Ann Stores invested in SAP retail information software, which allows the company to automatically replenish stores and use sales data to generate store orders. That same year, Jo-Ann leased a distribution center in California to handle much of the company's seasonal merchandise. Planning started for building a new West Coast distribution facility.
The new West Coast distribution center opened in Visalia, CA, in 2001. This state-of-the-art 630,000 sq. ft. location dramatically cut shipping and handling costs.
Visalia Construction Site
Today, Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. is a leading national specialty retailer of crafting, decorating, and sewing products-a "Create-It-Yourself" Superstore. We sell fashion and decorator fabrics, related notions, patterns, crafts, seasonal products and other merchandise. We sell the components to which our customers add their own talent and time to make fun and exciting projects. We are the only fabric and craft retailer that offers creative people everything they need-the products, the assistance, and the inspiration-to fulfill their creative dreams.
Portions of this history excerpted from Your Guide to Creativity, ©2001 Better Homes and Gardens® Creative Collection.
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