Former Hancock Fabrics leader remembered

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Morris Jarvis was a well-respected leader in business and in life, his friends and colleagues said.
Jarvis, 72, died Monday at Sanctuary Hospice House.
He was chairman and chief executive officer for Hancock Fabrics, retiring in 1997.
Larry Kirk, who worked with Jarvis and succeeded him as CEO at the craft and fabrics retailer, remembered him fondly.
“His big thing was having balance in everything, in business and in your personal life,” he said.
In the late 1960s, Jarvis joined Hancock Fabrics, which was founded in Tupelo by Elaine and L.D. Hancock. In 1968, he opened the company’s first store near Fort Worth, Texas.
He was later named district manager, overseeing 18 stores. In 1974 he was named the company’s vice president of retail operations, overseeing 158 stores in 22 states.
Kirk got to know Jarvis well and worked closely with him throughout his tenure.
“He was the company’s third CEO and led it during a fast and furious time as it grew,” Kirk said. “He brought a sense of order to everything that was going on, a uniform way of doing things. … he was a steady ship.”
Jarvis was named president of the company in 1980, and later helped take it public on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1985, the company acquired Minnesota Fabrics, and by 1992, Hancock Fabrics had grown to nearly 500 stores in 35 states.
Ellen Kennedy, who worked at Hancock Fabrics for 38 years, also remembered Jarvis as a good leader.
“He was a fine man to work for, and he treated everyone well,” she said.
Former Community Development Foundation President Harry Martin said Jarvis “did a magnificent job” leading Hancock Fabrics and was well-respected across the country.
Martin said Jarvis’ peers in the textile industry valued his opinion; in fact, Jarvis often lobbied for the industry in Washington.
Martin said he was just as respected in Tupelo and Lee County, where he was active in the CDF and several organizations.
“He was a quiet but very effective leader, very active. … we’ll certainly miss him.”
Kirk, who was CEO from 1996 until he retired in 2005, said he and Jarvis often bounced ideas off each other during their time together. And Jarvis continued to check on his friends and colleagues at Hancock Fabrics even after retiring.
“He was a fine man,” Kirk said.
dennis.seid@journalinc.com