Queen Village: Jack B. Fabrics Back in Business After Store Fire

Employee Rich Putnick has worked of at Jack B Fabrics for more than 10 years.

Jack B. Fabrics had been in business on the southwest corner of Fourth and Fitzwater streets for nearly 35 years until a fire raged through their brick-and-mortar shop on April 6, 2013. Now the business is running again after moving directly across the street from its original location at the end of April 2014 and the store is gradually getting back into the swing of things.

The fire, which started from an electrical mishap in the building’s basement, could not be quelled with extinguishers and the fire burned down the entire store.

“Smoke was filling up and we all ran out,” co-owner Rose Blumenthal recalled about the fire, which also damaged neighboring shops and residential apartments.

Although Blumenthal and her husband Jack managed to escape, Fire Captain Michael Goodwin died in the blaze when the building’s roof collapsed. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania ranks fourth in deaths caused by an uncontrollable fire in building, with 1,559 people dying from this cause from 1999 through 2010.

Rebuilding Jack B. proved to be quite an obstacle for Blumenthal, since the store lost all its materials in the fire and she had to re-order everything for its current location.

Rose Blumenthal's daughter, Sherie Abrams, takes care of the store's daily operations.
Rose Blumenthal’s daughter, Sherie Abrams, takes care of the store’s daily operations.

“We also had trouble with renting the new space and cleaning it up because it was in bad condition,” said Sherie Abrams, Blumenthal’s daughter. “No one could help us so we had to fix the lighting, the air conditioning … basically everything on our own.”

Despite the difficulties with opening up the temporary location, Jack B. was able to overcome the drawbacks. Now it is attracting local designers, and some of them were even Jack B. regulars before the fire.

“It’s known as the place that has everything no one else has,” said Kashiyan Rogers, 25, a design student from the Art Institute of Philadelphia. “If I can’t find it anywhere else in Philly, this store has it.”

Rogers is currently designing a collection for Philadelphia Fashion Week this September. In August, he will present a preview to his full collection before the PFW organizers.

Although the Blumenthals like the new location, they hope to reclaim Jack B.’s original home on Fabric Row in the next few months.

“When you are in business for 30 some years, you accumulate stuff that you [can’t] get any more,” Blumenthal said. “It has been a hard road but at the end it should be fine.”

Until then, the new locale will continue to sell textiles to garment makers like Rogers while still carrying the well-known Jack B. identity.

The construction site of Jack B Fabrics burned down location is directly across the street from its temporary home.
The construction site of Jack B Fabrics burned down location is directly across the street from its temporary home.

– Text and images by Jennifer Nguyen and Taisha Zeigler.