Lonnie Booker began his love affair with the sewing industry in 1968 shortly after returning from a tour in Vietnam. He was employed with the fabric division of Brown Shoe Company helping them open as many stores as possible in the upper Midwest in as short of time as possible. He was responsible for acquiring the demographics, negotiating the leases, hiring the employees and setting up the stores - sometimes having a Grand Opening in three stores at the same time.
Lonnie purchased his first fabric and sewing machine store in 1974. He has had as many as three stores at one time, selling Janome and Brother sewing machines and fashion fabrics. His stores switched from fashion fabrics to quilting about 12 years ago and have one of the largest selections of quilting fabrics in Illinois. The Fabric Center is a Top Ten dealer with Janome with whom he has had a great working relationship since the 1970's.
At The Fabric Center, customer service is not just a buzz word - it is practiced and monitored 24/7. They draw customers from several states that drive by many other stores to shop at The Fabric Center. Their service must be at a very high level to attract these customers. Education, selection, price, and customer service is the backbone of the business. He recommends small businesses shop Nordstroms and Nieman Marcus if they want to experience good customer service.
He recommends attending as many of the sewing industry's trade shows, workshops, and institutes so that you can pass on to your customers the most current trends and the newest techniques available. For a successful business to thrive, the owner's main responsibility is to drive revenue. He says he can delegate every detail in his store but creating revenue is the CEO or owner's primary function.
The Fabric Center's reputation is well known in the Chicagoland area. He said even though we are in a small town, nearby is another eight million people we can attract! He and his wife, Margaret, purchased this business 39 years ago. They have two daughters but unfortunately they live in Scottsdale, AZ - too far to commute to work! Without his dedicated staff of employees the customer service he demands would not be possible. His staff is the most competent and loyal employees that a business could have.
Even after many years in the sewing business Lonnie is still excited about the future growth of his business. He said it has afforded his family and employees a great quality of life. He said to work as a team and accomplish a goal is a very worthy life's work.
2013 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee