STOCKBRIDGE -- One of the Berkshires' most accomplished entrepreneurs never planned to have a career in business.
"When I married Jack I never had any idea of being anything but a housewife," Jane Fitzpatrick told the Boston Sunday Herald Advertiser in 1974.
But Fitzpatrick, who died at age 89 on Saturday, certainly left her mark on the local business community. Along with her late husband, John H. "Jack" Fitzpatrick, who died in 2011, the Fitzpatricks founded Country Curtains, a mail-order business, that now operates 24 retail stores and has more than 600 employees.
The couple started Country Curtains at their home in Whitman in 1956, and moved the business to Stockbridge when Jack was transferred to Berkshire County by his then employer, the Lincoln Department store chain, two years later.
According to an article in The Berkshires magazine published in the late 1980s, it was Jack Fitzpatrick who suggested that his wife try to market the unbleached muslin curtains she'd made for their own house through mail order.
The couple borrowed $1,000, found a manufacturer in Taunton, placed an ad in the Boston Herald Advertiser, and away they went.
Jane bundled her first 16 orders of curtains on her maternal grandmother's old dining room table. She brought the first orders to the post office in a baby basket.
Jack Fitzpatrick left the Lincoln Stores chain in 1960, and the couple spent the following year traveling through Europe with their two daughters, Nancy and Ann. While abroad, they picked up several ideas that they incorporated into Country Curtains.
In 1968, Jack Fitzpatrick told The Eagle why he thought Country Curtains had become so successful.
"Things have come around in a circle so that people are interested in things like the curtains that were popular 100 or 150 years ago," he said.
The Fitzpatricks were married for 66 years. According to Eagle files, Jane said the couple were successful because they complemented each other.
"Beside being husband and wife, Jack and I are good friends," Jane said. "He's good at ideas and not at details, which I'm good at. So we work well together."
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