San Diego

Longtime Fabric Store at Normal Heights Landmark Set to Shutter

Discount Fabrics – located at 3325 Adams Ave. – is preparing to move out of the iconic Carteri Theater building in Normal Heights

A longtime fabric store inside a Normal Heights landmark is planning to close up shop and, for now, the fate of the building – and its famous marquee – is unknown.

Discount Fabrics, located at 3325 Adams Ave., is currently liquidating its inventory as it prepares to move out of the neighborhood in the coming months.

The store is inside a historic building that originally housed the Carteri Theater, which was built in 1923 by San Diego architect Louis J. Gill for developer and owner B.J. Carteri.

Along with the theater, Carteri developed the block of original historic commercial structures in the community, from 33rd to Felton streets, according to Scott Kessler, the executive director of the Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA).

The Carteri Theater opened for business on Dec. 3, 1924. The AABA said Carteri sold the theater in 1936, after which it was renamed the Adams Avenue Theater. Five years later, it was again sold, this time to the Fox Theater Group. 

At that point, the Spanish/Mediterranean Revival theater was remodeled with an art deco façade and a terrazzo tile foyer. The Fox Theater Group operated the theater until 1961. 

Kessler said that, in the 1980s, among other uses, the building served as a music venue booked out by Tim Mays before Mays went on to found and own The Casbah.

In the late '80s, a fabric store moved in, and about 15 years ago, Discount Fabrics – owned by Michael Recht – took over.

Now, more change is looming.

Recht told NBC 7 his business has been on the decline for several years.

"The fabric business, in general, is down," he explained. "People don’t sew as much anymore."

Thus, Recht said he’s decided to cut his losses and close Discount Fabrics. He has no plans to open the shop elsewhere.

"It’s not worth it, at this point," he added.

Over the years, Recht has had a front-row seat to the growth of the business district in Normal Heights. The fabric business, however, has simply not been part of that uprising. 

Still, he’s enjoyed his store’s place in the heart of the community – and the famous marquee that still adorns the building’s façade.

"It’s really cool, all lit up at night," Recht said.

Craig Burns, of the AABA, said Discount Fabrics has been gracious enough to share the marquee over the years. The marquee is often used to promote local festivals and events, such as the Adams Avenue Street Fair.

Today, as Discount Fabrics prepares to shutter, Recht is using the marquee to promote his big blowout sale. It reads: “DISCOUNT FABRICS IS CLOSING. LIQUIDATION SALE. EVERYTHING MUST GO.”

With a laugh, Recht told NBC 7 it’s the first time he’s ever used the marquee for himself. He’s happy the community was able to use it over the years.

While the fabric shop is leaving Normal Heights, the marquee and the Carteri Theater building will stay put.

Kessler said he’s been in touch with the owner, Dean Goldman, about the future of the site.

Kessler said it’ll likely take Discount Fabrics between three and five months to liquidate its stock. For now, there are no plans to sell the building but the owner will likely lease it out.

And, it appears Normal Heights residents are already looking forward to something new sprouting at that location.

The AABA posted a message on Facebook this week asking locals what kind of new business they’d like to see open in the historic building.

The answers span everything from a live music venue and burlesque bar to a brewery, bowling alley or performing arts venue. Many residents would like to see the building once again become a theater.

“To see this building restored would be a lovely addition to our community,” Burns added.

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