With its rolls of fabric and rows of snips, needles and spools of thread, The Cotton Shop is reminiscent of a simpler time.
It was a time when people made clothes, curtains – just made more things than today. It was the time of Austrian immigrant Josef Lanz, who founded The Cotton Shop in 1959.
But now her son Heli Lanz thinks the time is over for the Redondo Beach store.
“We are pressed for time,” said Heli Lanz. “Clothes from China are cheap. There are video games, texting. It takes away the hours available to do things with your hands. ”
And so, in December, Lanz closes The Cotton Shop, which has survived three moves in 51 years.
The soft-spoken Heli Lanz, 58, a trained economist who turns away from attention. His father’s name is a sartorial pedigree, living in Lanz de Salzburg, a classic European-style (think “Sound of Music”) couturier he founded in his native Austria.
But with Josef ill in 1975, Lanz was on a break from his graduate studies and took over the business, which was then at its second location in Hermosa Beach. Her father died a year later.
At 23, Heli Lanz started her father’s trade and now told the facts about the fabric with mastery. Lanz moved the store to its current Redondo Beach location on Artesia Boulevard in 1991. His business acumen has also made The Cotton Shop buzz like a Singer sewing machine far beyond the point where most specialty fabric stores hang out. are made in changing times.
He attributed the decision to close the store to a confluence of events, both societal and economic.
“I turned 35,” Lanz explained in a back room. “My lease is over. We had our worst September since 1986. That was enough for me.
The activity is still profitable, admitted Lanz, but with finer margins.
“I want to make a decision when I can on my own terms – not when I’m forced,” he said.
With the exception of businesses closing and 30% discount signs, on a recent visit it was hard to tell The Cotton Shop was closing.
The parking lot was full. The shelves were stocked. Snips torn off, cutting yards of fabric. Customers ran their fingers along a soft cloth as employees haunted the aisles for customer groceries.
“There is nothing quite like this,” said Laura Geisel of Redondo Beach, during one of her monthly visits.
She held up a small package under the fluorescent light shining on the ceiling.
“I’m buying this thimble. It’s $ 1.49 here, ”Geisel said, noting that the same steel thimble at a nearby chain store could cost a dollar more.
“Just because it’s a big store,” she added, “doesn’t mean it’s a good price. ”
Geisel and others who have gone to The Cotton Shop for their large sample of top brand fabrics are unsure of where they will go after the South Bay institution closes.
“It’s just a department store, one of the very few iconic fabric stores that remain,” said Marna Smeltzer, president and CEO of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
Smeltzer remembers living in Hermosa Beach in the 1970s and visiting The Cotton Shop at the time.
“You go in there and you want to touch everything and feel it,” she said. “We are losing a bit of history. ”
As the days pass in the life of The Cotton Shop, Lanz is not sure exactly when he will close the store. At the end of December, he said.
He is enigmatic about his plans thereafter. He can do something involving the economy. He will definitely travel.
“It was a great race,” said Lanz. “We have an excellent clientele. Hope they can find another source and keep doing what they love.