The next time you visit The Fabric Shoppe in Fort Worth, keep an eye out for a small scrap of red fabric. It’s sitting, suspended, in a jar of bleach and has been ever since the Sunbrella-brand-only store opened in September 2017. And, that red is still just as bright and vibrant as day one.
“My father-in-law has the same thing in his store, only his has been there over a year,” says The Fabric Shoppe owner Sallie Duncan. “It hasn’t decomposed a bit.”
Duncan’s husband, Tim, is a fourth-generation textiles man, having come from a familial line that originally sold cotton to Henry Ford for his Model T interiors. Tim’s parents own a fabric store in Oklahoma City, and he took up the family business in college. Now, he manufactures mattress ticking for many of the major brands. Until recently, Sallie was an artist and stay-athome mother to four children, until she noticed a disturbing trend in her hometown.
“Nearly all of the fabric stores in Fort Worth have shut down,” she says. “People here were starving for fabric, for something other than craft store chains, and now they’re really excited that we opened up.”
She got in on the Duncan family tradition, too, and Fort Worth couldn’t be happier about it. In less than a year, The Fabric Shoppe has established itself as not only a Fort Worth décor essential, but also as the first Sunbrella-only store in America.
Design professionals and decorating newbies alike can find more than 350 patterns in store, with the ability to order approximately another 500. And if someone isn’t too familiar with Sunbrella, or thinks of it as just a retro awning material? Duncan says they’re in for a treat.
“Sunbrella did start in the striped awning business, but it has expanded into so much more,” she says. “Decorators are using it everywhere, both indoors and out, and it’s especially suited for curtains because it doesn’t fade. You can just take the drapes down and wash them—it doesn’t get much easier.”
The Sunbrella brand also has roots in the marine industry, and it’s through this that The Fabric Shoppe supports North Texas’ boating market. Besides cushioning and upholstery, Duncan can provide lake lovers with strappings, mechanisms for sails—practically anything a person might need for their boat, fabric-wise.
Versatility applies to Sunbrella products just as it does The Fabric Shoppe’s services. Duncan delights in helping her customers with each project, whether that means a complete room redo or a simple cushion reupholster—she’ll even provide the foam. Since her store is a direct supplier of the hardy yet beautiful fabric, Duncan is able to offer prices that are often even lower than what designers would normally get (though those with accreditation still do receive 20 percent off the final tab).
“There are so many different Sunbrella patterns and textures now, from traditional canvas to luxurious velvet and chenille,” she says. “Some are even specialized to look like crewel, boucle or tweed. It’s just so versatile.”
Typically, it’s only large companies that can buy direct from a brand such as Sunbrella, which is manufactured at the Glen Raven mills in Anderson, South Carolina. But Duncan’s fatherin- law developed a relationship with the company in the 1970s, which has now extended down to her store.
As spring and summer approach, it’s worth noting that Sunbrella goes beyond bolts of fabric—rugs, throws and even baskets round out the collection and are available for order through The Fabric Shoppe.
If your custom upholstery project is simply too much to transport to the Fort Worth store, which is located “on the bricks” of Camp Bowie in the Carriage Square shopping center behind the old P.S. The Letter store, they’ll come to you, of course. But then you’d miss out on spotting that famous scrap of scarlet Sunbrella fabric, and it’s something you have to see to believe.
Lindsey Wilson is a Dallas-based freelance writer who has a penchant for reclaimed wood and vintage barware.