In the large, bright Toronto warehouse of Unique Fine Fabrics, busy staff members pull gorgeous bolts with names like “Moonlight,” “Lotus,” and “Skyfall.” As they meticulously fill orders with ease and efficiency, a white-haired man saunters through the seemingly endless rows of floor-to-ceiling shelving.
“I used to knock on doors,” says Joe Quatraro, or Joe Sr., with a twinkle in his eye and a kind smile. “Times were tough.”
That was shortly after he had arrived in Canada from rural Italy more than 40 years ago. Just 21 years old, Joe Sr. only had $100 in his pocket. His plan was to go to the Okanagan Valley to harvest grapes but he decided to stay in Toronto instead and quickly landed work in door-to-door sales.
He sold everything from soap to towels, but Joe Sr. consistently heard customers say they wanted drapery. Seeing an opportunity, he and a friend started a custom-curtain business.
In 1979, he turned the wholesale side of that venture into Unique Fine Fabrics, which is now run by his three children: Joanne, Ralph and Joe Jr. The family has worked tirelessly and the company has experienced exponential growth, providing beautiful textiles and accessories to designers in Canada and around the world.
The siblings learned their craft at a very young age. They distinctly remember helping their mom and dad fill orders in the evenings and on weekends.
Considering its familial foundation, it isn’t surprising the company treats customers as family, too. They have an open-door policy, welcoming every designer to come to the showroom and warehouse, chat with knowledgeable staff and hand-select fabrics and hardware.
As soon as designers walk in, they quickly see the massive selection of carefully curated inventory from mills around the world. The Quatraro family spends a lot of time working with specialists, designers and artists. This helps them stay ahead of the style curve, offering the best selection in modern fabrics for home upholstery, pillows and drapes.
This combination of value and selection has proven to be incredibly appealing not just to trades people in Canada but around the world. In 2010, the company started taking orders from the United States and now works globally.
As Joe Jr. and Joe Sr. discuss one of these orders in a mix of English and Italian in the warehouse, Joanne gives a designer her undivided attention and Ralph lays out sample after sample in the boardroom. It’s evident the three siblings love what they do and are dedicated to carrying on their father’s legacy.
As Joe Jr. says with an infectious laugh: “We have lint in our blood.”