SHERMAN OAKS — There is one category of merchandise that I buy whether I need it or not--and that is fabric--gorgeous fabric at low prices. Somewhere down the line there will be a use for it, either for a chair, curtains, a wall hanging or a gift.
A new source for a fabric foray, Stern's, has arrived in the San Fernando Valley after 40 years in downtown Los Angeles. Its reputation as a source for custom-made draperies has been known by sharp shoppers for years, but only since September has the Valley textile junkie been able to pore through the company's extensive selection of home decorating fabrics.
The first visit can be overwhelming. Hundreds of bolts of fabric confront the shopper at the front door of this former bank building. But owner Kevin Stern knows exactly where everything is and can lead you to the proper section. Tapestries from Italy that retail at many of the designer showrooms for $40 sell here for $18. Stern says they made such an excellent buy in crewel fabric that they can offer it at $20 a yard instead of the usual $50 to $60. In addition, some beautiful damasks at $22 a yard represent a sizable saving from the regular retail of $65 to $70.
Florals from Mill Creek and Covington mills, marked from $5 to $8.50, reflect prices 50% and more off the original price. A cotton floral from 5th Avenue Designs that I purchased several years ago from a discounter and paid $18 a yard for was marked to move at $5. What a find!
In the drapery department--much of which is located in the vault--there are some surprises, too. Instead of the usual four or five basic colors in antique satins, we found at least 25 shades ranging in price from $3 to $5 a yard. At many sources these would run from $10 to $12. Some ready-mades are available and range in price from $20 to $48.
When we contacted several of Stern's recent drapery customers, their reports on the company's service, prices and workmanship were uniformly positive. One shopper, who went to the store with a sketch of the window treatment she wanted was stunned when Stern's quoted her $475; she had received a quote from a major Los Angeles discount chain for $1,700.
Stern's is a family business, their overhead is low because they own their building, and they work with a minimum of personnel.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
WHERE TO SHOP:
What: Stern's Draperies Inc.
Location: 13861 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Cards: MasterCard, Visa.
Call: (818) 789-3838.