This month, Dallas’ own Peacock Alley celebrated 45 years of creating and selling quality linens. Today, founder Mary Ella Gabler runs the company with her two sons, Josh and Jason Needleman. She and Jason sat down to share how the company grew into what it is today.
What inspired you to start crafting linens?
MG: My grandmother and mother loved linens and loved producing them, which involved a lot of knotting and crocheting. I have always been around textiles growing up in Pennsylvania-Dutch country. [Eventually] I was in New York, working in the financial business on Wall Street, and I had found a small patchwork pillow that I loved. This was at a time when you had your own sewing machine, you could go make the pillow at home, which is what I did. The idea carried on and when I moved to Dallas, I made some pillows and ended up selling them to Neiman Marcus. That’s really how Peacock Alley started.
How has Peacock Alley maintained its creativity and ingenuity in its designs?
MG: It has taken a whole team effort. That comes from trying to produce the absolute best product that you can develop, and that takes customer service. It takes a real team effort to make an impact with your product.
JN: We have been able to connect a lot closer to our customers. With social media and connections directly to the consumers, we are able to satisfy a lot of need and desires we get directly from the customers. The discerning customer is always pushing us to do something a little nicer with quality as the key.
How has Peacock Alley evolved over the last 45 years?
MG: When it started out, we were creating a product and was selling it to wholesale and specialty stores around the country, starting with Neiman Marcus here in Dallas. As that has changed over the years, we are more focused on the needs of the consumer versus the specialty.
Why did you choose Dallas to be your home-base for Peacock Alley?
MG: I love Texas and I love Dallas. Dallas has had such a “can-do” attitude over the years, and I love that.
JN: Dallas is a bit of a mecca for a lot of the interior design trade that we have always had a great relationship with. I think there were a lot of things that lined up that made Dallas worthwhile.
Your Fall 2018 collection reflects that “gray is the new ivory.” How did you decide on that?
MG: I have always felt so strongly about a white bed and then neutrals from there. I think at this time when we are satisfying such a diverse array of customers, gray is such a neutral palette that speaks to a variety of customers. With a gray color palette, you can add as much color as you want. For us, I think it is a great basis for our line.
JN: Gray is a very gender-neutral layer. We have had predominantly more female customers, but we have begun to expand that base quite a bit.
What do you want to see in Peacock Alley’s future?
JN: We will continue to have a very close connection to the consumer. We are trying to develop a much more transparent relationship with everything from involving the consumer on the product development side. You will certainly see a large shift in our business going online.
ME: I think whether it’s from the product to the customer service that we have instated in our retail stores, just trying to create the very best experience that we can from our customers is our focus.
Do you have any advice for our readers on choosing quality linens?
MG: It’s such a touchy-feely business and it’s such a personal product. They need to experience the feel of the product. They need to like the look of it, but to experience the feel of the product is very important.
JN: You should probably spend the majority of your budget on the sheets and the down pillows that you are using every day.
Mary Ella, do you have any advice for young people who dream of following in your footsteps of starting their own company?
MG: If you have a passion, follow that. It’s a lot of work. Don’t be afraid to take risks. You’re not going to win all of the time. You have to take chances along the way and condition yourself to that. Those were the drivers that helped me over the years, and that’s what I would recommend to anyone.
JN: When my mom started wring her book, Uncommon Thread, she was going to write a coffee-table book that was filled with beautiful photography of linens. When we started getting into the book, we realized how the story of building the brand of Peacock Alley was filled with taking chances, things not working out, and being able to move forward. It’s a very transparent read of all of the wonderful celebrations she had along the way and all of the wonderful things that she did to overcome the challenges that were placed in front of her. The book evolved from what was originally a more egocentric piece to an actual story that could actually guide somebody trying to develop their own company.
As part of Peacock Alley’s 45th anniversary, Peacock Alley is creating an installation for Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit organization that helps design homes for families in need, and will continue to support Community Partners of Dallas’ annual Toy Drive.