Michael Recht has seen sales in his Yardage Town fabric stores decline for decades.
At its peak in the 1970s, the National City chain had 16 stores in San Diego County. But from the late 1980s, Yardage Town began closing stores amid declining sales due to working women having less time to sew and discount clothing chains creating. less need to sew.
Recht will now close the four remaining local stores. This will mark the end of the family business which opened its first store in El Cajon in 1953, just a decade after the creation of its national competitor Joann Fabrics.
“First of all, I’m 71,” said Recht, who lives in San Diego. “I can’t go on forever. And I have no one to leave it to. My two children are satisfied with their job. But also, it is not such a profitable business.
The business was started by his father, who was from Poland. He started Yardage Town because he loved buying and selling, and loved fabrics and clothing.
As a child, Recht was not interested in his father’s fabric stores. When his father took him to Yardage Town, he would go to the back room and read comics. He dreamed of becoming a writer.
But he started working there full time after graduating from college in 1972 and fell in love with it.
“If I make a big sale, it’s kind of a peak,” Recht said. “When people come in and I have exactly what they want, it’s a great feeling. I feel bad when I don’t have what they want. I try to anticipate what to stock for customers, ”many of whom have come to stores with their parents or grandparents since they were little.
When Recht started the business in the 1970s and early 1980s, he said the fabric industry had benefited from a business boom.
“Clothes were still relatively expensive to buy then, so people sewed,” he said. “They taught sewing at school. It was a great saving of money to sew your own clothes. Now you can go to discount clothing stores and buy some really cheap clothes instead.
Discount stores like Five Below, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross contributed to lower sales in Yardage Town. He added that it didn’t help that more women started working and had less time to sew. And fewer and fewer schools offered sewing lessons.
“We certainly struggled to pay the bills,” he said. “There were a lot of times like that. “
Why didn’t Recht leave the company then?
“I went to college,” he says. “But that was the only thing I really knew how to do. So I had to stick to it. And then you still hope things get better. But they didn’t.
His sister, who still owns half the business with Recht, and his nephew understood this and stopped working for the family business two years ago. Recht stayed on to reduce inventory at the remaining stores in Encinitas, National City, Vista and Chula Vista. Recht will close the Encinitas store, which is currently holding its closing sale, in March, at the end of the lease. He will eventually close the other three stores housed in buildings he owns.
Owning some of the buildings in Yardage Town, which are relatively large, also helped the company stay afloat for so long as it didn’t have to pay rent. The National City store spans 30,000 square feet, and the warehouse, which it also owns, sits below an additional 30,000 square feet. The Chula Vista and Vista stores are each approximately 10,000 square feet.
What will Recht do after closing the business and selling the remaining buildings?
“I care about it every day. I really like coming here. I work six days a week. I really don’t have a hobby.
So he recently asked his son to buy him golf clubs for his birthday.
“But I don’t play,” Recht said. “I hope I like it.”
Hang Nguyen is a freelance writer for UT. You can reach her at [email protected].