If a bona fide state employee went to measure yardsticks at the SR Harris Fabric warehouse in Brooklyn Park, he would be lucky if Sid Harris wasn’t there.
The character who founded the family-owned fabric outlets 50 years ago (they’re now owned by son Scott Harris), is still a little miffed about it. “I was down in Florida two years ago. The state came in — the State of Minnesota — and measured our yardsticks, to make sure they were accurate. LOOK AT ME: To measure a yardstick, that is manufactured. My son didn’t say [anything]. I would have kicked them out of here!”
Sid later learned that “they may have sent somebody out by mistake.” I’d have started looking for members of the “Punk’D” crew. Considering Sid’s sense of humor, he might enjoy a prank. This married man of 60 years, father of two and grandfather of two boys is indeed a character, but not the only one in his family. He invited me to dinner with his three brothers, who claim not to believe that Sid knows me.
“We go to dinner once a week at Champps [when everybody’s in town]. Allen, Morton, Howard, we call him Buddy. All old guys. … I’ll be out of the 80s before my younger brother gets in, I think.”
Q: How did you get in the business of owning fabric warehouses?
A: Ahhh, fate is the hunter. I got in the business because I used to sell thread and then I went into fabrics when manufacturers left the area and went south or overseas. I decided to see how it worked.
Q: This place is your playground, isn’t it?
A: It definitely is. It’s where I have all my fun.
Q: Your son Scott doesn’t seem to enjoy the business as much as you do. Why is that?
A: He doesn’t show it. He enjoys it. Not to the extreme [I do].
Q: What business do you think he’d really like to be in, though?
A: He’d like to be a chef. He loves to cook.
Q: What other business ventures have you had?
A: I worked in my dad’s food store in Willmar. I worked for my father, sewing shoulder pads. That’s [how I got into] textiles and here I am.
Q: Shoulder pads for what?
A: Garments. There’s an art to it. Every shoulder is different.
Q: Do you remember where things are around here?
A: If I don’t, I’ll make up a story. And I’m good at that.
Q: How do you find something around this warehouse when you go back to look for it days later?
A: It’s very difficult because nothing is ever put back where it belongs.
Q: What is the weirdest place you have noticed a customer hiding fabric for later?
A: Under the shelf or stuck in a corner. [He spots a woman laughing.] Get over here. I feel more secure when I have a woman holding my hand, because I miss my mother. … Do I look harmless to you? That’s sad if I am.
Q: Do you sew or upholster?
Q: When the store is closed I imagine you and your staff holding meetings in different aisles and putting bolts of fabric back in proper order?
A: We don’t talk to each other. [Laughs] We don’t even like each other. Never had a meeting. We have a young man who comes in here, works in the evenings; he makes things neat as possible. This place will never be neat because I’m uncomfortable if it’s neat.
Q: When you see a bride shopping, you always ask her to bring you a piece of cake.
A: Correct. And I still ask and I still get nothing.
Q: Hey, who brought you a cake?
Q: What time does Arlene want you out of the house every day so she can have peace and quiet?
A: In Florida? I’ve got friends. We can go sit in some place. They have the same problems I have: They’ve been married too long. It’s 60 years Nov. 11 , Veteran’s Day. Sixty years! Can you imagine being in prison 60 years?! Visualize it.
Q: You’re awful darn cute, you know that?
A: I don’t know. I am who I am. I have a good opinion of myself, if that helps.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.