Maria and Joe Price began their journey of business ownership together 44 years ago in Lexington, Virginia. For 22 years they operated a successful store in Lexington, eventually selling that business and leaving the profession for a few years.
The Prices moved from Lexington to Lynchburg and didn’t open a business during that time. While Maria was away from the profession, she realized she missed the business too much. Since their youngest child just graduated high school and the couple decided to embark on a new journey.
Through a friend they heard about a building available on Main Street in Warrenton. “I had never heard of Warrenton until then. Joe and I came to visit, peeped in the windows and went into Old Town Cafe for lunch. We said yes to the building because we loved the charm of Warrenton.” Fabric Emporium was born.
For 22 years Fabric Emporium has been an integral part of Main Street. Maria and Joe operated a very successful enterprise. “Local support was crucial to our success. We worked hard at providing the best customer service for each one of our clients. Not only do they deserve this, in many cases, it makes the difference of repeat business,” Maria shared. “Once your customers realize you’re doing the best you can – they will come back.”
“Perseverance and passion are the key to success,” said Maria. “We were able to build and design items in our own workroom – specifically cornices, valances, headboards, pillows, and upholstery. This allowed us not to be solely dependent on retail sales. You have to roll with the ups and downs. You have to persevere – and we did. We were successful because we were 100 percent dedicated to ownership. I think that is another key to any business succeeding.”
The community has been such an integral part of their success. Maria acknowledged she didn’t utilize print advertisements much more than twice a year, she relied mainly on word-of-mouth referrals. She also relied on attracting visitors to her retail location.
One of her methods was utilizing her storefront windows. “The window displays were very important as they showed people who we were, before customers came into the store. It showed our style, products, and colors. The windows drew people into our business,” Maria shared. She did add that a combination of products and services periodically changed in the window displays definitely helped draw the attention of potential customers.
She also shared young people today, especially those with small businesses, benefit from using social media to promote their business. “We didn’t use social media, but it is an effective marketing tool without a ton of expense,” said Maria.
Maria was fortunate to have strong, positive role models in her life which she attributed to her success. Maria came to the U.S. from Germany when she was 10 years old. She remembered her family struggled after the war. She witnessed her mother and grandmother’s determination throughout those difficult years. These positive role models instilled a strong work ethic in Maria which have impacted her, even now. “My grandmother’s hard work especially stands out to me. She persevered; she wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her,” shared Maria.
Twenty-two years after opening, Maria and Joe have now retired. As of mid-December, Fabric Emporium has permanently closed its doors. “Joe’s been ready [for retirement] for several years now. We have never taken the time to explore and just do things. Nothing in life is a guarantee, and while we are still able – now is the time to travel. We wanted to experience all the great phases in life: a great business, great children, and now great travel.”
“It was a hard decision to make,” explained Maria. “I’ve enjoyed every minute and am concerned I’ll miss it.” When asked what she would miss the most, Maria said,” My clients. We have such a great relationship. When decorating for someone you really get to know them on a personal level – you even get to know their children. It’s the best of life and it is amazing.” With children located in Haymarket and in Florida, they wanted spend time visiting with their family and taking those long awaited trips that have been delayed. “We want to travel the U.S. – there are so many amazing places to see here in our country we have not been able to visit. I look forward to that.”
Although Maria is not working daily on Main Street, she shared some wisdom for other businesses and community members: “It is important to support local small businesses, even if costs are slightly higher. By doing so, the community contributes to the success of the overall economy.” Her advice to new businesses or those thinking about starting one is simple – have perseverance and passion. She also shared the importance of learning: “Mistakes happen – that is how you grow. Even after many years, you will make mistakes. Learn from them as it helps you get better.”
Although the doors have closed, and an era has passed, Maria’s wise words resonate throughout the community. This may be a bittersweet goodbye for the Price family, but a new positive journey awaits them.