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Fabric shop moves from D.C. to Culpeper


THE OWNERS of a couture fabric shop weren’t sure where to relocate after the northwestern Washington mall where they’d been for four years closed.

But after scouting sites from Alexandria to Leesburg to Fredericksburg, Moe and Brenda Rezvan decided to move Exquisite Fabrics from The Shops at Georgetown Park to 107 E. Davis St. in downtown Culpeper.

They were bowled over by the town’s compact retail district, which has been named as one of America’s top 10 “Main Streets,” and the fact that Culpeper has been named as one of America’s top 10 small towns.

“This street is just like a childhood Main Street,” Brenda Rezvan said of East Davis Street. “It took our fancy, and we decided to move here.”

She and her husband recently held the ribbon cutting for their new, 2,000-square-foot location. It’s filled with top quality silks, woolens, cashmeres and other fabrics imported from Europe and Switzerland. Some of the materials bear such couture names as Armani, Versace or Valentino.

Moe Rezvan said that some customers will show him the pattern they plan to use because he can tell at a glance if the fabric they’re eyeing will work—or not. It might be too stiff for the garment they want to make, for example, and won’t flow as well as they’d like.

Exquisite Fabrics also carries an extensive selection of basic fabrics, plus unusual buttons, ribbons and other sewing notions and trimmings. Some customers like to buy these to freshen up old garments or individualize new ones.

Rezvan attributes his love of fabric to his mother, who always chose the best fabrics to make clothes for her family. He started Exquisite Fabrics 40 years ago in the Watergate complex, and his wife joined him in the business soon afterward.

“When I was in Washington, we had customers from all walks of life,” he said. “We had some customers in high-powered government positions. You’d be surprised at how talented they are.”

Many have found that it’s cheaper to buy fabrics from the Rezvans and either make or have garments made than to spend hours trying to find something comparable in a store that might or might not be exactly what they’re looking for, he said.

He and his wife weren’t sure if their clientele would follow them to Culpeper but have been pleasantly surprised to find that some either live in the area or enjoy making an outing to Culpeper.

“They like the town. The street is beautiful,” Moe Rezvan said. “It’s kind of relaxing for them.”

Exquisite Fabrics is one of a number of new stores that have opened on Davis Street recently. They include Harriet’s General, a general store specializing in American-made products; Unique Boutique, which features affordable fashions for women and girls; and My Secret Stash, a vintage candy store tucked inside an antiques shop.

“We’re constantly busy [downtown] and we rarely have openings as real estate options,” said Jennifer Brewer, manager of Culpeper Renaissance Inc. “Once one is open, it doesn’t take long for it to get snatched up.”

That’s a far cry from how things were back in the 1970s, when a bypass was built around Culpeper and downtown began to die. Buildings were abandoned, crime was rampant, and a tree began growing out of the roof of what is now Raven’s Nest Coffee House, she said.

A group of concerned citizens decided something needed to be done after Norfolk Southern Railroad requested permission in 1985 to demolish a portion of the historic Train Depot.

They formed what is now Culpeper Renaissance, got grants and were able to save and renovate the building. The project was completed in 2003, and the Depot now houses the Visitors Center, Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Tourism. It also has space for meetings and conferences.

“The revitalization of the Depot was the catalyst for the revitalization of downtown,” Brewer said.

A couple years ago, there was a push to create an arts and cultural district downtown as well. Artists were offered incentives to move downtown, and a number have. Last month Culpeper began holding Sunday afternoon Art Walks to their studios and galleries.

“People from Northern Virginia come down and hang out for the weekend,” Brewer said. “We get people from Fredericksburg, Manassas, Warrenton, Locust Grove, Orange, all the surrounding counties. We definitely get locals as well.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407