It’s been about two months since Edward D. DiPietro Jr. put a “closing” sign behind the glass door of Edward’s Interior Decorators on Main Street.
Dismantling a business that has served the Falmouth community for more than 50 years is no easy feat. Display cases linger toward the center of the showroom. The back room still has operational sewing machines.
Mr. DiPietro pointed to one of the machines. His mother bought it used in the 1950s, and it has been running ever since. All of his machines have been well maintained, he said. He wants it to go to a good home and continue serving its community, and so it sits.
On the door of the business the words “’Ed.’ DiPietro and Son” are listed beneath the title.
Mr. DiPietro’s father, Edward D. DiPietro Sr. and his wife, Lillian G. DiPietro, got into the upholstery business with a partner in the 1960s. They parted ways only a few years after opening the original shop and started their own venture, Edward’s Interior Decorators, in 1966.
Until August the shop had been offering the same three services—upholstery, slip covers and custom drapery—for decades. A few years back the shop added blinds and shades to fill out its window treatment offerings.
Mr. DiPietro grew up working in his parents’ shop over the summer and after school. He went to high school in Falmouth. Upon graduation he attended RETS Electronics School, where he learned the latest techniques in electronics manufacturing. At Bell & Howell he spent a year working on an electronics assembly line.
Mr. DiPietro moved back to Falmouth in 1970 to help out during the summer rush and ended up staying. He gradually took over the shop after his father, and then mother, died.
Employees have come and gone, but some have been with him and his family for decades. One of the upholsterers spent close to 50 years working for Edward’s Interior Decorators.
More than one factor contributed to Mr. DiPietro’s decision to close up shop. Edward’s Interior Decorators has weathered many trends, sometimes changing to meet them and other times waiting until they fall out of fashion. But the furniture industry has changed over the years in a seemingly more permanent way. “This business kind of went out of style,” Mr. DiPietro said.
Take sofas, he said: People no longer buy expensive sofas with sturdy wooden frames. Instead, they buy inexpensive models, expecting to throw them out in five years time and buy a new one, Mr. DiPietro said.
It used to be that it was cheaper to reupholster a piece of furniture or buy a slipcover. That was part of his sales model. In the 1980s he received requests to reupholster up to four sofas a week. Now, he might receive one or two a month. The last request he received to reupholster a sofa was in May, he said. These days it is cheaper to buy a whole new piece. Over the last year or so he has mostly received orders from people looking to take care of old, sturdy pieces of furniture that have been in their families for decades.
The online commoditization of home goods has also changed the market, he said. Customers will come in with their own fabric or blinds, looking for someone to sew and install. Box stores like Home Depot might not sell the same quality furnishings, but they provide similar styles for lower prices, he said.
Edward’s Interior Decorators was the oldest remaining shop in its building on Main Street. It has held its ground since 1966. Perhaps telling of the times, it is sandwiched between two more recent additions: an artisan glass studio and a yoga studio.
Mr. DiPietro said he could have held out. “I’ve been on the fence for years,” he said. Edward’s Interior Decorators was still profitable. He could have sold the business, but that would have meant letting go of a namesake he and his family built. Edward’s Interior Decorators maintained a healthy list of customers over multiple decades through respect and reputation, he said. It wouldn’t make sense for him to put that at risk, he added.
All trends in terms of home furnishings come and go, but on August 21, he decided it was time to let go. It was his birthday.
Mr. DiPietro is 71 years old and splits his time between Cape Cod and Florida. He said he does not want to wait until he is sick to retire. He wants to enjoy his retirement with his partner of more than 30 years, Cheryl A. Amaral, and his children and grandchildren.