Former Calico Chairman & Owner Roy B. Simpson Sr., 98

April 7, 2022


Roy B. Simpson, Sr.
Roy B. Simpson, Sr.

by Jan Jessup

Those who have been with Calico for more than eight years will remember Roy B. Simpson, Sr., the former Calico owner and Chairman of Everfast, Inc. Roy died on December 24, 2021, at age 98. He was in good health and good spirits until shortly before his death. Roy is survived by his wife, Edith; their two children, Roy B. Simpson, Jr. and Mary Elizabeth Simpson; and three grandchildren. Son Roy Jr. was president of Calico from 2003 to 2012.

Roy Sr. attended the Calico sales meetings as recently as 2014 and always enjoyed being with the Store Managers, Regional Managers, and the Kennett Square employees. He loved the people who grew Calico from the small retail business he acquired 52 years ago and who made it a leading company in the decorative fabric industry. He knew that being a customer-centric company was critical to its success.
But how did Roy come to acquire Calico?
The year was 1970, and the founders of Calico Corners—the Funston and Woodruff families—had decided to retire and sell the company they started in 1948. Up stepped a businessman with broad corporate experience as a private investor, plus knowledge of the textile industry,
Roy B. Simpson, Sr.

At the time, there were just 15 Calico Corners: 12 franchise stores and three company-owned stores in Mt. Kisco, East Hanover and Sarasota. The average Calico store had sales of $195,000/year, an inventory of $40,000 to $60,000 of fabrics by the bolt (mostly seconds), and a staff of four sales associates. The entire headquarters was just 3,200 square feet, the size of a retail store. There were eight employees in the office and two in the warehouse.

Roy thought the Calico Corners stores would complement another company he had bought in 1968, Everfast, Inc., which operated Everfast Mill Store fabric outlets along the East coast. Roy was more of a hands-off owner—he hired others to run his companies, but always was informed and involved. Bert Kerstetter was recruited as VP of Finance in 1971, the start of an extraordinary 50-year relationship with Roy. “This was a long time for a business relationship,” noted Bert. “Roy was truly an exceptional human being and the source of much goodness,” he added.

Roy’s profession enabled him to achieve many dreams on the principle of doing the most good. From the beginning of their marriage almost 80 years ago, Roy and Edith have been a true partnership with similar New York backgrounds and passions for knowledge, art and beauty. They both came from families where design and fashion played a part, from millinery to handbags, clothing to interior decorating. It was no wonder that Roy’s career would lead him to the business of textiles; he could readily grasp the value and importance of this essential commodity.

Together, Roy and Edith built a beautiful home life—truly a celebration of creativity and style. They shared a commitment to the arts and over their many married years, collected works that spoke to the two of them, together. Believing that creativity could bring joy to every life, in the 1970s the Simpsons became heavily involved with Studio in a School, a fledgling program that was started to bring in-person arts instruction to the New York City public school system. Their involvement continues to this day. Roy often said that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

“Studio” certainly occupied a special niche for Roy, but there are many examples of his generosity in his personal, professional and philanthropic life. The situation might vary, but the guiding principle was always the same: unselfish giving. He was at heart a person who found his greatest joy in opening doors for others.

A gentleman of great style, Roy was a dapper dresser, no matter the occasion—even when rollerblading in sports clothes. His aunt, Adele Simpson, must have been an influence, as she was a noted American fashion designer for 50+ years. Adele Simpson was often recognized for the innovative use of fabrics in her designs.

Roy had a wonderful warmth and generosity of spirit reflected in all aspects of his life. He left Calico with a beautiful legacy in his life’s work and his passion for this business. All who knew him will remember him fondly.

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