Jason Asch never planned a career in the textile industry. He was all set to go to law school when a summer job at Diamond Foam and Fabric came calling.
Since the 1950s, two brothers and a sister had owned the family business, then called Diamond Foam. The 1920s building that housed their La Brea Ave. foam store originally served as a De Soto car dealership, designed by architect Julia Morgan. Having no one to take over the family business when they retired, they approached Asch.
Being a local who once lived in Fremont Place, he decided to make a go of it and bought the store at 611 S. La Brea in 1981. He noticed that Diamond’s customers would purchase their fabrics around the city and then bring the fabric to Diamond Foam for the foam. Asch decided that the logical thing to do would be to add fabrics to their stock and sell everything directly from the store –– one stop shopping.
Asch also observed that the local fabric stores were selling silks and woolen prints, so he decided to focus on woven fabrics.
He estimates that he has more than 5,000 rolls of fabric in stock, and if you don’t see it on the floor, just ask. He’ll have it somewhere. “I buy fabrics the way other people collect stamps and I love every single roll individually,” he proclaims. “My friends tease me because they say I could be shown a porno movie and the only thing I’d notice would be the sofa fabric. And it’s true. Fabrics really are a passion above and beyond being my livelihood.”
It’s that obsessive passion for each individual fabric that keeps clients coming back year after year. “I believe the reason the store is so successful and why my customers keep coming back is because we listen to people. We listen really hard. We understand our clients’ needs and treasure their feedback.”
When the recession hit in 2007, owning a high-end textile store became a bit precarious, but Asch dug in, knowing that he didn’t want to go the mass production route. “I wasn’t willing to buy inferior products from China. I didn’t want to succumb to buying junk.”
Asch firmly believes in only buying high-quality textiles that come from producers who treat their workers well. “The question I ask myself,” says Asch, “is ‘did the person making this get maternity leave?’”
Much of the fabric that Asch sells is American made. He realizes that his customer’s sensibilities are in tune to socially responsible issues, and he wants to mirror that with his own company. His employees get full benefits, and many of them have worked with him for 20 years. One employee, Earl Johnson, has been with the company for 45 years.
As more retail spaces have opened on La Brea, Asch knows that his business must also reflect the street’s changes. He plans to introduce Italian bedding, fine towels and possibly high-end lighting fixtures. Staying true to form, though, he only plans to use high quality, small producers for those items as well.
“I want our store to be a destination place,” says Asch, “and for people to know that we are a store that cares.”
For more information, go to diamondfoamandfabric.com or call 323-931-8148.