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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #127: Exeter Handkerchief Factory, Exeter

Recent reviews are sew-sew.

I love that in junior high school in Exeter we were essentially assigned to visit the local fabric store as part of our home economics sewing curriculum. It was in the syllabus - "you can find everything you need at the Exeter Handkerchief Factory". And it was no lie - that place had everything in their sprawling, 20,000-square foot complex nestled between Garfield Court and Linda Street. I was even able to find a purple-and-green fish pattern I used for making a pair of knee-length shorts. Yup, 1988.

The Exeter Handkerchief Factory was a town institution, selling over 15 million yards of fabric since its founding in 1945. I suppose it's still there, though now it's called "Exeter Fabric & Furniture", a far less interesting name than the original, which evoked cultural memories of New Hampshire river-mill textile centers. The word "handkerchief" was so specific, so anachronistic, it was a little vintage touch in a town steeped in history. I understand the place has struggled recently with some mixed reviews regarding customer service and how welcoming the environment is. That's a shame, and I'll admit that I spent far more time than I meant to going down a rabbit hole of online reviews - apparently there's an ongoing difference of opinion about whether customers should be allowed to take notes in a fabric store. The world is a strange, strange place.

I haven't been in the place for decades. And it's unlikely I'll ever go again (I can't see myself replacing those purple and green fish shorts). But I always liked that it was (is?) there. Sometimes a place is just part of the fabric of the community (ouch).

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