Bill Fabrey, along with his wife Nancy Summer, wanted to make life a bit easier for plus-sized people. Fabrey, who is technically a larger person himself, and Summer, a full-figured gal, knew that items most individuals use each day were not always made in plus or super sizes. So they decided to do something about that.
In 1988, they brainstormed and came up with Amplestuff -- a mail-order catalog company that caters only to larger individuals. Fabrey and Summer's concept was simple: "Sure, some people lose weight and keep it off, but most plus-size people gain it back, and meanwhile, they have the same needs as everyone else." Today, the company offers more than 200 items geared toward larger persons.
Besides Amplestuff, Fabrey, 67, is also active with the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination, as well as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, took some time from his busy schedule to talk with LoveToKnow Plus Size about his business.
Is Amplestuff just an online store or do you have a retail store as well?"We were always a mail-order catalog, but around eight years ago, we set up a website catalog and shopping cart as well. We don't have a retail store or showroom. When you ship worldwide, a store in Woodstock, New York, wouldn't help most customers."
What types of products do you sell?
"All kinds of stuff except clothes. Airline seatbelt extenders, high-limit scales, XL blood pressure cuffs and kits, XXL hospital and exam gowns, personal hygiene tools and accessories, a lotion applicator, hand-held shower sprays, XL shoehorn and sock installer, larger-sized automatic umbrellas, high-weight-limit bath benches, absorbent bra liners ("Pambra's"), reaching aids, fanny packs for any waist size, high-weight-limit folding tripod and camping chairs, XL clothes hangers, books and exercise videos for big people, and so forth."
What are your best sellers?
"I would say the fanny packs, the blood pressure cuffs, and the large clothes hangers. But everything else sells, too."
Why do you feel there is a need for these types of products for plus or supersize people?
"Because society is set up for average-size people. Big people are just factored out of the equation when manufacturers decide what sizes and weight limits to design for. And the bigger you are, the more this is true. I have had scale manufacturers tell me that nobody needs a scale that goes up to 400 pounds. Today, our 440-pound scale is popular, as is the 500-pound and the 1,000-pound scale. Most manufacturers don't have a clue that such a market exists. The only exception is the plus-size fashion industry. And today there is a budding industry in the "bariatrics" field--large wheelchairs, walkers, chairs, and so forth. They call it "bariatrics" because they don't know what else to call it that won't offend someone."
Tell me about the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination
"A group of seven of us "size acceptance" activists founded the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination in 1991; I am still on its board. We work behind the scenes to fight discrimination against people of size, whether it be job discrimination, or bad treatment in the healthcare system, that often tends to blame fat patients for their size. Most big people have tried valiantly all of their lives to lose weight, but the five-year "success" rate of most means of losing weight is dismal. Meanwhile, they are human beings and deserve to be treated humanely, not bombarded with more advertising that tries to make them feel badly about their size."
How did you get involved?
"As strange as it may sound to some people, I am one of those guys who admires the larger figure in a woman. My first wife was quite large, too. And I am technically obese myself, weighing around 215 pounds at 5'8". But my weight is stable for many years, and I don't want to mess with it. If you date or marry a large person, it won't be long before you are angry at how they are treated in our culture, and I should add that I get angry when some people think my taste is weird. Beauty is literally in the eye of the beholder. How dare anyone tell me what I should think is beautiful! I just decided to use the anger productively, instead of sit around and stew about it."
Tell me about the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
"The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was started in 1969, and as such, was the first national group to preach the idea that fat people should make peace with their size, and so should society. It did not say people should be fat, just that if you are battling weight all your life, maybe you should try something different. It said that it is unfair to discriminate against a larger person on the basis of their size."
Why did you help start this organization and how is it doing today?
"I was considered the founder, because I rounded up a small group and drafted the first constitution, found an attorney, and so forth. My co-founders were a sincere bunch who wanted to help end size discrimination and help fat people in as many ways as possible. Today, its main emphasis is on activism, although in the past it had fashion shows, a dating service, local chapters around the U.S., a monthly newsletter in print, and so forth. In 1977, it held the first party in a hotel swimming pool, with actual large-size bathing suits--in public! Today, much activity that is beneficial to large people is online, and locally around the country. This year is the 40th anniversary of NAAFA, and they are celebrating it with a conference. I am a life member, and support what they are doing."
What are your goals not only for Amplestuff but for your involvement in the plus size and supersize community?
"My goal for Amplestuff is to continue providing hard-to-find things that make it less difficult to get though the day if you are plus- or super-sized. I love my work (I am a retired biomedical engineer) and it really keeps me busy. That is also true of my volunteer work in size acceptance. I recently became the membership officer for another organization, ASDAH (Association for Size Diversity and Health) which is primarily composed of healthcare professionals, such as dietitians, eating disorder specialists, exercise physiologists, holistic practitioners, and so forth. We like to preach what we call the "HAES" philosophy, which stands for "health at every size." ASDAH was formed in 2003, and I joined it in 2007. It is described at the ASDAH website."
Anything else you would like to add?
"What I have never understood is why some people feel insecure when there is a diversity of sizes, shapes, hair color, heights, as well as ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so forth, attending their barbecue? I am thrilled that people are all so different. It makes life more interesting."