PaperCity Magazine

January 2019- Dallas

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Clockwise from above: Mary Ella Gabler published her memoir in 2013. Josh Needleman restored a vintage Airstream trailer to carry Peacock Alley linens on cross-country sales trips. Mary Ella Gabler's bedroom at the farm. The original outhouse. An antique clawfoot tub at the family farm. learned to be resourceful. "We created our own world," he adds. "Our big playground was the creek, the woods, the fields." Ray loved to cook and cultivated a garden in the sandy loam, growing heirloom lettuces, herbs, and vegetables, long before the term heirloom resonated in Texas culinary circles. He planted coastal Bermuda and baled it for sale to nearby ranchers. Mary Ella cultivated a gracious home, washing her hand- loomed, Nottingham lace sheets from Peacock Alley in the sink and drying them on the line. She even pressed the hems and pillowcases with an antique iron mangle she'd learned to use growing up in 1940s Pennsylvania Dutch country. The house did not have air conditioning and lacked insulation, so Mary Ella dressed the beds seasonally as her grandmother had done, with layers of antique quilts and comforters when temperatures dropped. "It was Martha Stewart in a small way," Mary Ella concedes of the refinement she bestowed on their rustic life there, "but it was how I'd grown up, and it was the pleasure of doing it that I enjoyed." The farm was a weekend pastime that inflicted pain along with pleasure, but when a global recession hit in the early '80s, it played a critical role in ways no one in the family could imagine. M ary Ella Gabler has a pioneer's spirit. In the late 1960s, she became one of the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. Her success, however, didn't translate as easily to Dallas, where she had relocated with then- husband Michael Needleman, now deceased. Dallas' old-boy stockbroker network wasn't interested in hiring a woman, and her Honda 50 motor scooter, which she rode in a skirt and pearls through Manhattan, raised eyebrows, here. Success came more easily in an unexpected realm — linens. The patchwork floral and gingham pillows that she and longtime friend Gayle Gunderman made, caught the eye of a Neiman Marcus buyer, who placed a large order for its 1971 Fortnight extravaganza, Fête des Fleurs. By 1973, their cottage industry had blossomed into a full-fledged linens manufacturing business, Peacock Alley (named after a favorite restaurant in NYC's Waldorf Astoria). The women's fashionable take on bedding was a breath of fresh air. "Prior to the '70s, bedding served a mostly utilitarian purpose, much as early quilts had. PHOTOGRAPHY: HEATHER HAWKINS, JANE SOBEL KLONSKY. COVER PHOTO BY SCOGIN MAYO. Mary Ella at home in Martha's Vineyard. The 1930s quilt is a family heirloom. (continued)

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