Thrifty fabric: Former NYC costume designer, partner open Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke

Fabrics sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel. The new store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard.

Fabrics sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel. The new store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke, in the shop last Friday. The new Holyoke store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard.

Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke, in the shop last Friday. The new Holyoke store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Buttons sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel.

Buttons sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke in the shop on Friday morning.

Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke in the shop on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

 Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke, in the shop last Friday. The new Holyoke store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard. Below, buttons and fabric available at the shop.

Joseph Charles, co-owner with Jeffrey Cattel of Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke, in the shop last Friday. The new Holyoke store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard. Below, buttons and fabric available at the shop. STAFF PHOTOs/CAROL LOLLIS

Fabrics sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel.

Fabrics sold at Paper City Fabrics in Holyoke co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

 Paper City Fabrics on High Street in Holyoke, which is co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel.

Paper City Fabrics on High Street in Holyoke, which is co-owned by Joseph Charles and Jeffrey Cattel. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 03-06-2024 1:55 PM

Modified: 03-06-2024 4:24 PM


HOLYOKE — A new store on Holyoke’s High Street hopes to rekindle business development downtown — while paying homage to the city’s history as a textile manufacturer.

Paper City Fabrics opened its doors to the public on Jan. 31, offering a cornucopia of donated fabrics at bargain prices. The store is the brainchild of Joseph Charles, a former New York City costume designer, who owns the store along with his partner, Jeffrey Cattel.

“New York got super crowded, and it changed a lot, so we moved out to Holyoke about five years ago,” said Charles. “I never thought I’d be running a fabric shop, to be quite honest.”

Charles said he and his partner were inspired after visiting Swanson’s Fabrics, another fabric store located in Turners Falls. Their Holyoke store operates using a thrift-store model, with most of the fabrics donated, allowing them to sell at $4 a yard, with some fabrics already pre-cut at certain lengths.

Also on sale in the store are other elements for making clothes, like zippers, buttons and yarn, along with patterns for making different types of outfits, like tailored jackets and blouse skirts.

Since their opening, Charles estimates the current fabric on display constitutes about one-tenth of the entirety of the store’s supply it has received from donations. He once even received an entire truckload of fabrics from a film set in Boston that no longer needed them. And the number of customers coming in has responded to the supply.

“There’s a lot of quilting in this area. So we get a lot of quilters, but a lot of people that do upholstery as well,” Charles said. “What’s popular now is vintage patterns, sewing from retro vintage. Sewing really had sort of a comeback during the pandemic.”

The store’s address, 330 High St., has been reworked from its former days as the site of the Waldorf Lunch restaurant, with century-old floor tiles restored to their original condition. Also on display are old photographs of the William Skinner Silk Mill in Holyoke, a connection between the city’s past and the present-day fabric store.

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But while honoring the city’s past, Charles also hopes the store can help build the city’s future. The store is located in the city’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district, allowing it to receive grants to help expand the space. The TDI districts are a program for gateway cities like Holyoke, run by the state development finance agency MassDevelopment and designed to accelerate economic growth.

Charles said he hopes through the store’s success, it will inspire other aspiring businesses owners to follow suit in opening up in the city.

“We’re really trying to revitalize downtown, just trying to bring more small businesses here,” Charles said. “We could have went to Florence, Northampton, anywhere but here, and it would have been a lot easier. But we really wanted to invest in the community that we live in.”

With the grant the store received and by popular demand, Paper City Fabrics plans to begin offering sewing classes in April, allowing members of the community to learn how to make their own creations using fabric.

“We’re going to start with classes for children and beginner sewing, because that’s what I’ve been getting the most requests for,” Charles said. “Then quilting workshops, and we’ll have open sewing time and different things like that. We haven’t quite figured all that out yet.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.