Fabric store

Fabric store says they’re sewing long after five decades

NYACK – They came looking for vintage buttons, a yard of silk, maybe something for a slipcover or upholstery job.

They wore nostalgic expressions on Tuesday afternoon, as these women walked through the doors of Sew What’s New for perhaps the last time.

The fabric store Bebe Lefkowitz opened in her Orangeburg home almost half a century ago will close at the end of March.

Bebe and Susan Lefkowitz in Pearl River in the 1970s.

“It will be a great loss for Rockland County as there is no other business like this in the area,” said Marilyn Piscitelli of Suffern, who was rummaging through a plastic trash can full of buttons. “We will have to go to Manhattan.”

Longtime Haverstraw client Kryste Andrews was in Sew What's New on Tuesday looking for cuts.

Longtime Haverstraw customer Kryste Andrews was in the store looking for toppings.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Andrew. “It leaves a void. “

RELATED: Affordable Housing to Replace the Fabric Store

RELATED: Platzl Brauhaus Shuts Down at Haverstraw After 8 Decades

Bebe Lefkowitz started the business in her basement by selling samples to her husband. Albie. brought back from his job in Manhattan’s Garment District.

The store’s first home was in West Nyack, then moved to Pearl River, then a basement on Broadway and Main in Nyack before moving to its own building on the village’s upper main drag.

The 6,000 square foot one story store is across from Highland Hose Co. No. 1. The store is in a former bowling alley – there are still two pins on its roof and a few more collecting dust in a storage room. in the back.

Upon Lefkowitz’s death in 2009, the boutique lost a wise eccentric who spent hours feasting clients on her life story while supporting them with their design projects. She had an “elastic smile that made its way into every conversation,” the Journal News wrote in a 2002 article.

“The fabric store was her passion, it was who she was,” her daughter Susan Lefkowitz said over the phone on Tuesday. Susan, her two sisters and a brother no longer live in Rockland, she said. “It was time to sell the property and let this phase come to an end. “

The store was managed remotely by Susan Lefkowitz, who lives in Phoenix, and looked after by two longtime employees, Tara Fitzgerald and Manuel Vasquez.

Tara Fitzpatrick, left, and Manuel Vasquez of Sew What's New Fabrics in Nyack on Wednesday March 9, 2016. The store is scheduled to close on March 31, 2016.

Vasquez is now part of the store’s history. He landed the job almost 18 years ago shortly after arriving from El Salvador. He didn’t speak English, but hanging out with Bebe Lefkowitz and attending BOCES classes in the evenings changed quickly.

“She liked to talk a lot,” Vasquez said. “Hearing him speak and then going to school, I learned quickly.”

Vasquez added: “She was unique, all the customers knew her. They knew if they wanted to walk into the store they needed at least an hour because she would start talking.

He said that lately the store has attracted more DIY enthusiasts as well as theater and television set designers. He showed off a “Law and Order SVU” t-shirt – he made curtains for the TV show.

Eve Vaterlaus of New City looks through bolts of fabric at Sew What's New Fabrics in Nyack on Wednesday March 9, 2016. The store is scheduled to close on March 31, 2016.

On Tuesday, a handful of customers strolled through the spacious showroom, its floor and walls cluttered with bolts of fabric piled haphazardly on or against display racks.

Some have stopped to remember the self-described packet rat that filled the store with designer fabrics that she bought on clearance sales and sold at discounted prices.

A customer looks through a trash can full of vintage buttons at Sew What's New in Nyack.

“She was passionate about fabrics and she loved her job and she loved leading and helping people create their designs… She collected all of her fabrics in Manhattan. Buttons and notions, all she needed, ”said Piscitelli, a decades-old regular.

Susan Lefkowitz described her mother as an entrepreneur who encouraged people to take risks and start their own businesses.

“For a woman who grew up in her day, she was a huge risk taker,” Susan Lefkowitz said of Bebe. “She wasn’t content to be just a mother and a wife. She was ahead of her time.

Carinne Cusanelli of Haworth, New Jersey looks through bolts of fabrics at Sew What's New Fabrics in Nyack on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. The store is scheduled to close on March 31, 2016.

Fitzgerald, who has worked in the store for six years, spoke of the generations of customers the store has served.

“A woman would come in and bring her daughter and tell us, ‘I have the material for my wedding dress here and now I’m going to get the material for her wedding dress here.’ And the girl comes by finding the same lace that her mother used on her dress.

Robert Brum is Columnist and Editor-in-Chief of The Rockland Angle, an overnight electronic newsletter devoted exclusively to Rockland County news, articles and other essential information. To subscribe to The Angle, visit http://lohud.com/newsletters, check the “Rockland Angle” box and submit your email address.

Twitter: @Bee_bob