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Business plan

An engineered approach to curtains

Ilya Kohen and his wife Elaine own Curtain Time in Stoneham.Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

After working as an electrical engineer for several companies, Ilya Kohen decided in 1992 to do contract work.

“It unleashed an entrepreneurial spirit in me,” he said, and led him to import fabrics and other goods from his native Turkey.

“I sold them to businesses and it took off,” Kohen said.

In 2002, he stopped in at Curtain Time in Stoneham, which had been in business since 1981, to sell his wares. The owner said, “No, I’m 72 years old. But if you want to buy [the store], let’s talk.”

“Next thing I knew I owned the place,” said Kohen.

We talked with Kohen, 64, of Newton, who with his wife, Elaine, operates Curtain Time.


Q. Store?

A. A 4,000-square-foot showroom, with 16-foot ceilings and a 4,000-square-foot museum-quality [no moisture] storage area.

Q. Offerings?

A. Bread-and-butter items such as café sets ($10 to $12); to full-size panels ($30 to $40); to semicustom, 1,000 fabrics you can point to and a book of styles and ‘poof’ we make that for you. We make a point of not being strictly traditional or modern. We cater to customers on a one-on-one basis.

Q. Full custom?

A. We can come to your house and discuss your design plans and come up with an optimal solution. And we do installations. Customs range from $300 to $500.

Q. New items?

A. Twice a year, my wife and I go to trade shows in New York where manufacturers are introducing new designs. We buy things we never carried before, to stay current.

Q. Challenges?

A. Someone came in with a high-end luxury limo and wanted curtains for its six large windows. I quizzed him and came up with Roman shades built into the wall and motorized, with the driver able to operate them from an iPhone. I enjoy people and working with customers and these challenges. I come to life in this store when I put my engineer hat on.

Wendy Killeen

Wendy Killeen can be reached at