The goal was to make a statement – and it worked.
While no one is quite sure what the tall cylindrical structure looming just off the 75th Street exit off I-35 at Lenexa is supposed to be, it can’t be missed. According to a blog post published by the Johnson County Library, brothers Harry and Melvin Eisen originally commissioned the fabric from their family business, House of Fabrics. They wanted to give their new headquarters “an identity”.
For fifty years, the structure has dominated its environment and intrigued passers-by. Is it meant to be an abstract wreath or sheaf of wheat or a spool of thread? None of these answers.
The brothers, who had obtained an industrial bond from the city of Lenexa for over $3 million, purchased the property on Lenexa Drive and set about building their headquarters. They wanted the huge structure to be practical but also a bit grand.
Like a corset, the elevated circular foyer is created by large, evenly spaced cement columns that rise well above the rest of the two-story structure and curve upwards. Harry called the shapes “flower petals” which were created for “cosmetic purposes”.
Built in the late sixties, the majority of the 208,000 square foot building is nondescript, created to house the warehouses and offices of House of Fabric and its parent company, Eisen Mercantile.
Abraham Eisen, a Russian immigrant, started the business venture as a dry goods store on Walnut Street in Kansas City. In 1939, her sons took it over and, in the 1950s, they opened a sewing and fabric business. By 1968, the singular tailor shop had grown to more than one hundred franchises in twenty-two states, including thirty-four storefronts in Missouri and Kansas.
The business was sold to Gamble-Skogmo, Inc., and Eisen Mercantile left its Lenexa site. Lee Jeans moved in, then moved out. Currently, a self-storage company, among several other businesses, resides in the area.
Various companies have inhabited the space over the years, but the original tile-encrusted Eisen Mercantile logo still graces the foyer, another statement that has long outlived the company that made it.