Spinning a new yarn at The Interior Alternative
By Waynette Goodson • Photograph by Amy Freeman
Tiffany Janovak loves fabric. She once had a 380-square-foot apartment in New York with three closets, and one of them held nothing but remnants and bolts of fabric.
Originally from Denver, Janovak “got conned” by a girlfriend to move to New York after graduating with an English degree from the University of Colorado. “I thought I would go into publishing,” she says.
Instead, she hit the pavement as a receptionist at Nautica and parlayed that position into an assistant merchandising job at Crystal Brands (Speedo, Christian Dior, Hathaway). “Then I got the call back to Nautica and got promoted to assistant merchandiser working with designers in ties, loungewear, dress shirts—all men’s.”
Before long, she found herself “living the dream” at Ralph Lauren. “It was aspirational and inspirational,” she recalls. “You want to achieve those things: the glorious home by the beach with the blue-and-white-striped sofa and the linen drapes and the rattan. Ralph Lauren always said, ‘Let’s live the dream!’”
She spent 26 years in New York, 21 of them with Ralph Lauren, beginning in the men’s division. “That’s where Mr. Lauren started, in neckties,” Janovak says. “At the time, men were wearing them narrow, and he reinvented them. He made them wider and out of home furnishings fabric.”
After four years in neckties, she moved to the home design division where she would eventually become the senior design director. “I worked in home design for 17 years, and bedding and bath was always the No. 1 business driver,” she says. “I’d go to Greenville, South Carolina, to run sheets and towels in the mill. I loved being in a textile mill; it was fascinating!”
Janovak was buying fabrics for Ralph Lauren furniture five years ago — when life took an interesting turn. She met her future husband, Kyle Klawetter. “I resigned my job in New York and moved to High Point,” she says beaming. “I bought my first house and my first car!”
Career-wise, she experienced another whopper of a change — moving from wholesale to retail at the helm of The Interior Alternative, a company that operates six discount outlets from California to Delaware. The Interior Alternative’s parent company, Loomcraft Textiles, bought the behemoth in February 2016 for $6 million. “I’ve been on the wholesaler side for most of my career, and this is a showroom that’s open to the public,” Janovak says.
Now, she plans to bring her passion for fabric to the new Greensboro store in the old Sears, Roebuck & Company building on Lawndale Drive beside Target. “We want to get people ignited and inspired to come in,” she says. “First, our team will ask customers what project they’re working on.”
Then, they’ll help them peruse the 15,000 square feet of showroom space featuring upholstery fabric — that’s about 400,000 yards in stock at any time. Utility canvas, twills, cotton duck, plush velvets, woven jacquards, outdoor and drapery fabric — in a rainbow of colors, which is how Janovak organizes the store
“We do wholesale fabric from all over the world, domestic and international,” she says. “We purchase from some of the best suppliers in the industry. We even have poly and down pillow forms in a large variety of sizes, along with foam for cushions.”
Besides the designer quality and the variety, fabric aficionados are bound to love the wholesale prices. The most expensive textiles will go for $24.99 per yard for what Janovak calls “the real goodies.” Think Schumacher, Duralee, John Robshaw and, of course, Ralph Lauren.
The petite, blonde ball of energy speeds around in a golf cart to navigate the store’s 200,000-square-foot warehouse. In addition to retail, the Greensboro location will stock fabrics for the other five Interior Alternatives in Fountain Valley, California; Newark, Delaware; Vernon Hills, Illinois; and close by in Burlington and Charlotte. This means that there will be a steady stream of new arrivals, and merchandise will change frequently.
“A big part of what I’ve been hired to do is take the fabrics, merchandise them and send them to the various locations,” Janovak says. “We would really like to expand and open more stores. Obviously, we have plenty of space here to warehouse for all the stores.”
True. The old Sears, Roebuck & Company building boasts 1.75 million square feet. Of course, there is space available to rent as there are parts of the first floor that the showroom/warehouse doesn’t use, alongside four other floors.
Formerly one of 11 catalogue distribution centers that Sears operated nationwide, the Lawndale location once spanned 3.5 million square feet. But part of it was razed to make way for the shopping center anchored by Target and Harris Teeter.
“The building itself is part of the whole fascination,” Janovak says. “We hear all the time, ‘I used to come here with my mother or my grandmother.’ There are still pieces of tape and markings on the walls. But we’re not moving them. It’s so neat; it’s a piece of history.”
How is the diehard New Yorker adjusting to her new life down South? “I think there’s an artistic community here and in High Point, and there’s a big design community with the High Point Furniture [sic] Market,” Janovak says. “I think this will be a big driver for the industry. We want people to come here and look at it as a resource.”
A self-proclaimed foodie, Janovak loves exploring the area’s culinary scene — she admits to “fantasizing” about the ahi tuna and wasabi mashed potatoes at 1618 Seafood Grille.
“Life is all about reinvention,” she says. “This opportunity with Loomcraft and The Interior Alternative is my reinvention. I’ve been in design and merchandising for the majority of my career. To move to retail is a great departure for me. I’m 50 years old, and this is a wonderful, new opportunity.” h
The Interior Alternative, 2801 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro. (336) 282-1101 or loomcraft.com. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.