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Michaels Founder Passes Away

Michael Dupey, widely credited with being the creator of the craft superstore by being the founder of the Michaels and MJDesigns store chains, passed away April 30th.

Dupey created the beginning of the Michael’s chain in 1973 by converting one of his father’s Ben Franklin variety stores in Dallas into a crafts store that he named Michaels Arts & Crafts. By 1983 the chain, still owned by Dupey’s father, had expanded to 11 stores, with most of the stores located in Texas. Dupey Enterprises sold the Michaels chain that year to legendary Texas entrepreneurs the Wyly brothers. As part of the deal, Dupey retained two stores and the sole right to the Michaels name in the Dallas area.

In 1984, the Wyly brothers spun Michaels off into a public corporation in which they were the majority shareholders. After a protracted legal battle, Dupey lost the exclusive rights to the Dallas area market and the Michaels name. He renamed his stores MJ Designs, but the arrival of the Michaels chain in the Dallas area eventually forced MJ Designs into bankruptcy in 1999.

Dupey lost MJ Designs in the bankruptcy. The company’s stores in the Northeast were closed and the remaining ones in the Dallas area sold. In 2002, a 2nd trip through bankruptcy court shuttered the company permanently. However, according to the Dallas News, at its peak in 1997 during Dupey’s leadership, MJ Designs had 57 stores and sales of $250 million.

In 1990, Dupey rejoined Michaels for a brief period as a consultant.

John B. Menzer, CEO of Michaels Stores, Inc., issued the following statement to Scrapbook Update about the passing of the company’s founder:

We are saddened by the death of Mike Dupey, a great retailer and innovator who was at the forefront of the arts & crafts superstore concept.  He was a passionate advocate for our industry, and his key role in our company’s history is not forgotten.  Our deepest sympathies go out to Mike’s family.

Despite having had no financial or management interest in the chain he founded for decades, Dupey was apparently still interested in what the chain was doing. In mid-April, a member of the TwoPeasInABucket.com message board reported seeing him in the Michaels store near corporate headquarters, checking out the new store layout that is currently being implemented across the chain:

…I headed over to M’s while my prescription was being refilled nearby. I was looking for some paper when I overheard 2 people talking about the new re-do and how long it had taken them to get to this point. One of them commented that scrapbookers don’t show by mfg, but by theme.

I took myself right over there and told them that seasoned scrappers are looking for certain lines, not just a catagory like travel, baby, etc. Especially if it’s a hot line or a well known line.

An older man introduced himself to me and it was no other than Micheal [sic] Dupey….We had an interesting conversation about Micheals [sic] and the scrapbook industry as a whole. You know, the thing that struck me the most is that he was most disappointed in their lack of change.

Well, he had been in the store checking out the new store set. Ok, I might have forgotten to say this is their “corporate/BeltLine” store. And every store would be getting the same set. Their headquarters are here as well.

Among those who worked with him in the crafts industry, Dupey was widely viewed as having a special genius for spotting trends and marketing them. As Dupey’s longtime friend, CLN Online’s Mike Hartnett, told Scrapbook Update:

[Mike was] absolutely a brilliant merchandiser and had an uncanny knack for spotting a trend long before anyone else. I bet he would have had a huge scrapbooking department before the competition knew what scrapbooking was.

Dupey was open about his battle with bipolar disorder, and his mercurial personality was both familiar and legendary to those who came in contact with him in the crafts industry. Alice Beas, of Crafty Productions, had this to say to CLN Online about Dupey:

I went to MJ Designs to sell something to Howard Hoffman and Mike Dupey kidnapped me. He drove me to an MJD store to show me an amazing jungle he had imported, complete with life-size trees and swinging monkeys. It was massive!

Mike learned that I had a new baby at home and forced me to take a 5-ft.-tall wooden giraffe home with me – on an airplane. That thing still makes me laugh.

Mike Dupey is a strong figure in my memory of “the good ole days”: walking shows with his feathered hat and entourage of black-shirted staff. What a thrill to have him show up at your booth at HIA on the last day – with an order!

I am happy that I have been in this industry long enough to remember the great days of Mike Dupey. God bless the gifts he left us.

Dupey is survived by his two children, Todd Dupey and Melissa Jabin, and two grandchildren, as well as his former wife Patty. A memorial service was held Tuesday afternoon, May 4th, at St. Ann Catholic Parish in Coppell, TX.

[Editor's Note: Extra special thanks to Mike Hartnett of CLN Online for his generous help in compiling this tribute.]

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