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Phyllis J. Shapiro, 97, managed fabric and craft stores

Phyllis J. Shapiro, 97, managed fabric and craft stores

Jan. 3, 1920 – May 26, 2017

Phyllis J. Shapiro, an avid crafter who turned her hobby into a career as manager of fabric and craft stores, died last Friday in Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Clarence. She was 97.

Born in Buffalo, the former Phyllis Siegel was a 1938 graduate of Lafayette High School and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University at Buffalo in 1941.

She also attended the Albright Art School, studying fine art, and worked in Siegel’s Hat Shop, her parents’ millinery business on Main Street in downtown Buffalo, where she helped design and create custom hats for the city’s high society.

After Chicago native Jerome H. Shapiro was hired as retail manager for her uncle’s company, Bon Ton Millinery Corp., she played matchmaker, arranging dates for him with her girlfriends, then dated him herself. They were married in 1942 and, while they were on their honeymoon, he received his Army draft notice.

While raising her family after the war, she turned her artistic talents to a wide variety of crafts – quilting, rug making, hand-painting china and making chocolate candy.

When her sons were grown, she employed her expertise in sewing and designing clothes in a job with So-Fro Fabrics in its Abbott Plaza store in South Buffalo. She quickly was promoted to store manager, the first woman to hold the position.

After Jo-Ann Fabrics bought So-Fro in 1972, she continued as store manager and opened and managed several new branches for the company. Among the stores where she designed the floor layouts and trained her successors as manager were the shops on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst and the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, which was the largest in the chain at the time.

Mrs. Shapiro served several years as manager of the Eastern Hills Mall store and became one of the company’s primary instructors for new store management trainees, who came here from several states to learn her techniques. She retired in 1982.

She and her husband were avid Buffalo Bills fans and were among the original season ticket holders. She also enjoyed cooking and traveled extensively in the U.S., England and Ireland.

Her husband, who went on to become a vice president of The Sample Inc., died in 2006.

Survivors include two sons, Gary and Stuart; a brother, Marvin Siegel; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in Forest Lawn.

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