Property’s Morning Obsession: Jack B. Fabrics and Those Who Tried to Save It

Before the fire that tore through Jack B. Fabrics at Fourth and Fitzwater on Saturday afternoon–leaving one firefighter dead and another injured–the 35-year-old shop was a stalwart of Philadelphia’s Fabric Row. Three generations of the Blumenthal family operated the store, which was often busy with eagle-eyed customers peering at bolt after bolt of every kind of fabric imaginable.

Cotton, linen, polyester, silk, satin, chenille–Jack B. had an enormous selection that’s especially good for home furnishings. Here’s a recent Yelp review from Paige C. that basically says it all:

Save yourself a lot of time and make this your first stop if you are looking for fabric on Fabric Row. It will probably end up being your only stop…They had the widest array of fabrics and the friendliest staff, who were eager to help you out but not overly trying to sell you anything. The lovely saleswomen was very knowledgable and happily handed over five samples of fabric for my mother to take home and mull over.

While the aisles are narrow and there are literally thousands of fabrics in the store, it was easily maneuverable and well organized.

The efforts to save the building were nothing short of heroic, but tragedy struck. From the Inquirer:

The collapse – followed by the subsequent collapse of a second-floor roof and two walls – trapped Capt. Michael Goodwin, 53, inside the burning building, officials said. A second firefighter, Andrew Godlewski, suffered burns to his hands trying to rescue Goodwin before the second collapse.

Dozens of firefighters at the scene on South 4th and Fitzwater Streets saluted as the body of Goodwin, a 29-year veteran of the department, was carried out on a stretcher.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said Goodwin, who is survived by a wife and two grown children, was his friend. “He’s the kind of guy who looked out for his folks – a big guy,” Ayers, wet-eyed, told reporters late Saturday night. “A ladder man. A firefighter’s firefighter.”

We mourn Capt. Goodwin, who died trying to save part of Philadelphia’s great urban history. But given Philadelphian resilience, we’re guessing the Blumenthal family and those friendly employees will be back. Perhaps this time the store will be called Michael G. Fabrics.

S. Phila. blaze kills firefighter, injures 2d [Inquirer]

Each morning we start the day with Property’s Morning Obsession—anything from staging to woodwork to the fragment of a building. Want to submit your morning obsession? Send us an email.