When Donna Salyers went to New York City in the early 1980s to work on her TV show, Sewing, Etc., she made several fashion observations. One was that everyone seemed to be wearing fur except for her. "I decided I wasn't going back to New York without a fur coat," says Salyers, who's now owner of Covington-based Fabulous Furs.

Salyers is an animal lover as well as a seamstress, so she knew she'd have to design and sew her own coat out of the best faux fur she could find. "I expected that it would just be a project," she says. But when she returned to Manhattan, she saw the positive reaction the coat received. "I figured if it looked good in New York, I might be on to something."

Fabulous Furs got its start selling $129 kits aimed at sewers, including fabric, pattern, and instructions on how to make a faux fur coat. Though the company has grown into a $7 million catalog order business, Salyers wasn't thinking nearly that big when she took her first delivery in her garage.

"I had $1,500 to start with, and I had no clue," she says. Salyers may not have known the ins and outs of running a business, but she knew her way around a sewing machine, and she knew the key was the fur. She scoured fabric manufacturers all over the country, looking for the highest-quality faux fur she could find. She advertised in sewing magazines and worked the home sewing shows and, soon, she was outgrowing her Forest Park office.

That's when Salyers moved the business to Madison Avenue in Covington (she's since relocated to an even larger space on West 11th Street). Her husband, Jim, was buying up old buildings in Covington for renovation, so Salyers moved Fabulous Furs into one of them. That's also when she got serious. "You can grow as fast as you want to as a catalog, but you have to have the money for printing, postage, and, most importantly, the inventory when the orders start pouring in," she observes.

The Internet added another dimension to Fabulous Furs as well, allowing Salyers to reach people all over the world. She estimates that the Internet comprises about 15 percent of the business, while her retail location in Covington accounts for about 1 percent. But catalog sales are the bread and butter.

These days, Fabulous Furs shoppers are buying ready-made coats, scarves, vests, pillows, throws, and other accessories. Salyers phased out the sewing kit in the mid-1990s when she realized she could grow the business much more quickly by selling finished pieces. She designs every single piece herself, and employs a staff of about 25 who do everything from sewing to fulfilling orders.

Once celebrities jumped on the bandwagon, things really took off. Soap opera stars began appearing decked out in coats from Fabulous Furs in shows such as Another World, The Young and the Restless, and General Hospital. Radio City Music Hall even ordered some furs for its Christmas Extravaganza. "All of the national attention has helped to put Covington on the fashion map," she enthuses.

Salyers feels confident the best is still to come. "I want to be enormous," she says, chuckling. But she means it. Her understated intensity is what drives the business, what brought it out of the garage and into the forefront of the faux fur industry. "I may be a lot smaller than Bloomingdale's," she says, "but I have to work just as hard, and keep my products just as new and just as fresh."