Home Business St. John business @Work: Fabric Mill

@Work: Fabric Mill


Dec. 23, 2004 – The Fabric Mill in Mongoose Junction Shopping Center just may be one of the oldest retail businesses on St. John. Trish Capuano opened the store in January 1982, back when retailing was a lot less competitive than today.
"It went from being non-competitive to you really have to be a sharp business person," Capuano said.
In those days, St. John didn't have nearly the number of retail shops it has today. Now, there are many businesses competing for the tourist dollar.
Capuano said the Fabric Mill has been consistently healthy and has grown every year. She now has five employees.
She learned the ropes from a friend in the New York fabric business.
She's expanded her store twice, including opening a second floor in 1996 when the shopping center built an upper level. And she's changed her product mix to keep pace with the times and to keep her interest up.
When Fabric Mill first opened, Capuano carried fabric wall hangings and soft sculpture toys. Next she added decorator fabrics and home décor items. "Now it's mainly women's clothing, shoes and accessories downstairs," she said.
She carries clothing lines from Eileen Fisher, Three Dot, A'Nue Ligne, Grass Roots, Liz and Jane and Habitat.
Capuano said women's clothing sells better now, and people don't seem to sew as much as they used to.
However, she still carries home décor items and fabrics on the upper floor of her shop. She said that while she originally thought the home décor side of the Fabric Mill would appeal mainly to local residents, she found that tourists came shopping because they had the time to look for things for their homes.
"I ship, so it's been a good thing," she said.
Capuano moved to St. John in December 1981 after teaching at Good Hope School on St. Croix. She went to Good Hope fresh out of the University of Connecticut.
She was pregnant with Kristen, now 23, and thought motherhood and teaching school would put too much of her focus on children. She said owning a store allowed her to adjust her schedule to compliment Kristen's.
Her daughter just graduated from the University of San Diego and is back on St. John to work with University of the Virgin Islands biologist Gary Ray in the study of endangered plants.
With responsibilities to her daughter winding down, she's taking time for herself. She plays tennis, reads and goes sailing. Always an avid traveler, she said she enjoyed the buying excursions she made for the store and for fun. She and life partner Dave Dostall just returned from Paris. And they're toying with the idea of an extended cruise aboard Dostall's boat.
"I'll be spending more time away and less time here," she said.


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