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Meet Stitched with Love

Store name:  Stitched with Love

Owners:  Lynn Farestad — partner David Schmid was my silent partner at first but is becoming less “silent” as time goes by.

Store Location: 500 N. Custer Rd Ste 110, McKinney, TX  75071  (located in Custer Plaza)
Phone: (972) 540-5355
Region of the country:  Midwest: West North Central
Years in business: 6.5 years
Number of employees: 13
Website: www.stitchedwithlove.us
Facebook: facebook.com/Stitchedwithlove.us
Instagram: instagram.com/stitchedwithlovetx

Types of special services offered:  Fabric, patterns, notions, long-arm services, long-arm rentals and for purchase, classes, clubs and special events.

Stitched With Love gives their customers the full experience. From a beautifully organized store, to meaningful classes, to extra help with their longarm machines, quilters can expect solutions for a whole range of quilting expectations.

White shelves you can see over plus space to walk around displays gives the shop a light and airy feel.

What does the outside of your store look like? How do you enhance your curb appeal? Rock with lots of windows.  We utilize the windows to their fullest. From the outside we make sure you can tell it is a quilt shop – with words on the windows, barn quilts hanging in the windows – pieces of fencing with quilts hanging on them.

What do your customers see when they first arrive, both inside and out? Fabric, in rainbow order against the back wall, greets you.  Lots of natural light.  Our shelving isn’t higher than four feet so you can see the expanse of the whole shop.  Shelving is all white so the colors of the fabric really can shine.  A smile, a welcome, music playing in the background – laughing and help with whatever you need.

Did you intend for your daughter to be part of your store? YES! She is so creatively talented – I knew she would be key when I first thought about going into this venture. She knows me better than anyone, so knows what I am thinking, what I want or how I would handle a situation, even if I am not here.  If there is any questions, she will ask me what my priority is, so she can make sure she is tackling things in that order.  Because she is my daughter, she understood that she has to almost work harder than anyone else.  With her Graphic Art degree – I depend on her to make sure we stay true to our brand and that anything that gets added passes her approval.

How do you divide the workload? I do the scheduling of staff, schedule classes, the ordering, the back office stuff. I love math so that is right up my alley.  I also do the newsletter – gives my writing passion an outlet.  Lyssa on the other hand loves the creativity that comes with various areas – so helping people pick fabric is her love.  She also designs packaging headers, buttons, t-shirts for the shop, helps with the website. As a certified tech for Handi Quilter, she handles lots of those calls.  We both work on the floor – enjoy spending time with our customers. Lyssa works most mornings from 9 until 2.  Her husband works evenings and Lyssa days – so their boys are not in day care.  I work the full day.  Most of the time, if she is here, I am also here – but may be in the back working on my duties.

How do you manage the variety of classes you hold? We have tried so many different ways with classes.  At first we just tried to offer the basics.  Then the next year we decided we were going to try to do it like college courses – you know – Chemistry 101, 102, etc.  Where the following classes built on the first ones.  Well, while we thought it was a great idea to help people with the basic techniques – we found that people really didn’t want that.  They didn’t think they needed help on their basic techniques.  So we switched to Technique and Project curriculum.  That was received a tad better.  Now we offer classes on what excites us.  If there is a pattern we just love – we make up a small sample and offer a class.  Sometimes people will ask for a certain class – especially if a sample is hanging — and if enough interest, we find a teacher.  We do the basics – Sewing 101, Piecing 101, Intro to Foundation Paper Piecing. A new clutch or purse pattern hits – we jump on it.

Who teaches the classes and how do you manage them? I have several fantastic individuals I can pull on to teach.  Lots of time they will come to me and say they found a new pattern and would love to have a class – how can I refuse!  We have a period of time the teachers can come in, present what they would like to teach, give us the description, supply list and then together we pick dates for the calendar.  So far it has worked, some can’t teach on weekends, and others can only teach then – so the timing and days get spread out nicely.  We pay the teacher 80% of the class fees.  We also let our employees and teachers take the other classes for free,  if the class has at least two paying students in it.  Also, if the teacher has a full paying class, the employee/teacher may need to help if needed and they are able.  This has helped getting people to sign up for the classes.  The employees can talk about it from experience and the teachers can talk about them with their students – especially if it is a next step kind of class.

What are your most popular classes? A lot depends on what else we have going on at the moment.  Our Second Saturday Sampler has months that have Foundation Paper Piecing – so that class has been held every month since December and gets filled.  Piecing 101 has been huge – 4 sessions 3 hours a session – they leave with a quilt.  We keep the 101 classes fairly small – about 4 so people feel like they are getting the attention they need / want.  Anything that Natalie Rawlinson (Ticklegrass Designs) wants to teach – is sold out very quickly.  We have found that while we have it on the calendar months in advance, we don’t really start advertising it until about 3-4 weeks – then there is a sense of urgency and people flock.  If they see that it is repeated over and over again – we seem to have issues filling the class.

Which social media platforms do you use the most to reach customers? Instagram and Facebook.  I have a newsletter that goes out on Monday afternoons – my blog is at the top and the rest follows.  Funny how many people are reading the blog – I write about myself, my struggles, my accomplishments, my family  life.  I’m open and honest and it seems to draw people in – they can relate.

How does being a HandiQuilter dealer enhance your quilt shop? We only sell HandiQuilter machines.  When we first started SWL, I brought my HQ into the shop to quilt for others.  After a few years, someone asked why I wasn’t selling them.  Good question – so I contacted my local rep and we talked.  HQ is a fantastic company.  They really care about their reps, and their customers.  There are so many stories where they have gone above and beyond to help a customer – I knew that that was the kind of company I wanted to be associated with.

Do you have a technician on staff? Yes, my daughter Lyssa was my first technician.  Recently we have added Jenn to our list.  She came in to rent a machine and was hooked.  We sent her to training and the rest is history.  She loves quilting her quilts!  That’s another thing I do – as an employee, you can use my longarms for free.  I feel the more they understand the machines and can use them, the more comfortable they will be in telling others about them.

What kind of machine education do you offer customers? I have National Educators come in at least two times a year. This year it will be five times.  Every time someone hears someone else say something, it helps them learn something new.  One of the best events was Dinner with Adam.  Our customers are asking when the next one will be.  We catered in dinner, asked him questions and then he started showing us some new fun things on the machine — they loved it!  We also have monthly long arm club meetings.  If they purchased their machine from us – they get a full hot breakfast at 9am.  Then at 10am the others come and we have an organized club meeting.  We talk about maintenance, couching, the different feet, quilting for a quilt show, etc.  At the breakfast, I usually have to stop all the table conversations to ask questions and do show and tell.  They learn so much from each other. Plus, any of our customers can come in at any time and get a quick lesson or ask questions.  I would not want anyone to have to wait until the 3rd Saturday to get their questions answered.  Another thing we do that is different, Lyssa, Jenn and I give our long arm customers our cell numbers.  There is nothing worse than having your machine act up at 5:30pm on a Saturday evening and having to wait until Monday morning to get help.  They text us and we get back to them asap.  We would rather take 5 minutes from our evenings / weekends to help and get them quilting again, then have an upset person call Monday morning after missing their deadline.

How do you manage your longarm quilting business?  When we first started, I did it totally in house.  As we got busier and then turnaround time kept growing, I asked for help from people whose quilting I trusted and liked. Currently we work with a gentleman who has 3 HQ longarms going at once.  He provides fantastic service and a great turnaround.  There are times when customers will request me to long arm – and I will if I can – but most get picked up by Jeff.

What policies do you have in place for quilt drop off? We have a form the customer fills out.  While they are writing their contact information, choosing the batting, reading through our guidelines and the part of that it is a machine and that we will not be held liable, we measure the top and the back of what they brought in.  We request at least 4” on each side of the quilt – if not, we let them know right then.  Also, by measuring all 4 sides of the top, we can let them know ahead of time if their quilt is going to be crooked or wonky.  So many people think that their quilts are perfectly flat and square and seem surprised when we tell and show them it is not.  It helps then with the finished product if we warn them ahead of time.  We square and ease in as we can but when there is a 4-8” difference, you can only do so much.

How often do you change displays? I am so blessed with the skills of my team.  I have one who was a merchandising “queen” in her prior position.  How often do they change depends if there is a new line coming in that needs to be highlighted.  If we are pushing a line that hasn’t done well, then she will put together a display that highlights that fabric with other samples and it flies.  There was one time I came in and couldn’t find our thread after three passes of walking through the store. Got sort of panicked then!  Now they know to let me know the shop will be flipped and they make sure I know where the thread is.  We try to let the team know as a whole that changes are coming so they can walk through at the start of their shift and see where everything has landed.  Grunge, Solids, notions – they are mainstays that are in the same place — the others are free game.

Do you have strong relationships with designers, either locally or from somewhere else?  I like to think so.  Natalie Rawlinson from Ticklegrass Designs tested her first pattern at our shop.  She was a customer and teacher and then started putting down in writing her ideas.  Now she has quite a few patterns and is still a very popular teacher.  Anytime she gets a new pattern, there is a class.  I saw Eye Candy Quilts at a market – their mini line they title as “Fierce”.  So “Fierce Ladies”, etc.  On the back of the “Fierce” patterns, they have the quote, “though she be but little, she is fierce…”  That resonated with me on so many levels.  When I first started, I felt like this teeny tiny fish in the huge pond that is known as quilt stores.  I felt so out of place and doubted myself in so many areas.  Then I met these ladies and saw the quote – I bought every one of their patterns – especially the “fierce” ones.  I had them come to the shop to do a trunk and workshop and have been following them and supporting them since.  Now when she has a new pattern, she will drop me one – send me a sample to display – it works out really well.  I think when you build relationships with the designers it benefits both of you.  I really want to support local designers – I remember how it was when we first started out – want to help them as much as I can.

A wool purse is a free pattern from Emmaline Bags – The Puffy Coin Purse.

You’re adding Sue Spargo wool applique and quilting to your store. What went into making the decision to do this?  When I first started, there were two other established quilt stores in McKinney.  I really tried to not carry what they were known for, and though there was some overlap.  Two years ago, the longest running store closed their brick and mortar and then two months ago, the other one closed.  I met with my team and my vendors to figure out what was going to missing in the area with the closing.  Wool was one.  We are a bright store and Sue’s wool colors are bright and vibrant.  A great fit in my opinion.  There was also a panic about where the local wool addicts club was going to be able to meet and get their supplies so for us, it was a no brainer.  The leader of the club stopped by, shared some of her samples and we talked.  Jill is bringing her club to our shop and is helping me order and set up our wool section.  She already has classes on the calendar and people are signing up.  We showed her work and the velvet and wool at the SSS meeting – where we have 106 individuals listening to all we say and show them – and the buzz was created and is growing. We now have wool, needles, threads, patterns, books and there is still so much to get.  But it is all so very exciting.

You have an engaged Chamber of Commerce. How has their involvement enhanced your store and your recognition in the community? Yes, our Chamber is very good.  Before I even opened I went through the Chambers SCORE program where I was teamed up with a retired business owner.  He helped me with my business plan, my financials, finding a building to lease etc.  He encouraged me to take advantage of the other offerings the Chamber had.  I know I try to go through the Chamber listing when needing a service.  Anytime your name is out there – whether it is in their new resident basket, their website, or a Facebook video, it gets you and your business out where others can see it.  Still after so many years, people still say they didn’t know we were here.  Any and all publicity helps. Our Chamber included SWL in a recent video.

How has your store evolved since your first day? Lyssa officially resigned her job in July and we started working in my dining room at home.  Felix was 3 months, so now at 7, I can say he really has grown up in the shop.  We met with venders, started receiving fabric, cutting FQ’s, samples, etc until we moved into our building, officially opening in January of 2013.  I thought that everyone would love what I loved.  Why wouldn’t they?  We had a crib set up with nursery fabrics, we had bright fabrics, some batiks, very few Grunge and some 30’s fabrics.  I was trying to make my own path compared to the other existing stores.  Very quickly I learned that what I loved might not be what everyone wanted to purchase. I learned that the modern new mothers didn’t want nursery fabrics, even though the grandmothers did so that got phased out.  Learned that the name Grunge didn’t scare people away, but in fact used it as a fantastic blender – so now we carry every single Grunge that is available.  I learned that when you carry some fabrics – like Reproductions, 30’s etc., you can’t just carry 50 bolts, you need quite a few so they have choices. Over time, we evolved.  We figured out what notions people are purchasing and how to track what is still selling and what is slowing down.  It was important to me not to have anything hanging from the ceiling – wanted for people to see the whole shop so that has taken some creativity. I learned quickly to rotate and change displays. People find new things all the times.  Even the team does.  We have changed what classes and services we offer but we still make sure everyone is greeted with a smile, that they feel like they are the most important person who has walked through the shop.  We know that not everyone who comes in is really looking for fabric – but they are looking for their “safe” place, their place to escape to – and we want to be that for them.

The lag bolt wall defines fabric lines. Framed quilt blocks above add inspiration.

Do you take business classes, either online or locally? Where do you learn how to manage your business? I spent 30 years in the Human Resource field before opening my shop.  The Chamber offers classes periodically, like accounting for a nonaccountant that I took advantage of.  While my degree is in I/O Psychology, I did take business classes as part of that course work.  I thought with my experience this wouldn’t be too difficult.  Hahaha — I think I have a leg up because of my background – but nothing can prepare you for owning your own business. It is all you.  There is no CEO that makes decisions and then you work forward – you are the person making the decisions and it isn’t always easy.  There are many times I wish I could just have someone else make the decision but that isn’t the reality.

How do you balance your life? Wow, think that is a work in progress.  I take Wednesdays off and I treat them as sacred.  My father has Alzheimer’s so I spend lots of my Wednesdays taking him to appointments, errands or just spending time with him.  I can watch my three grandsons then, have my own appointments, sew, whatever needs to be done. I know I have that day that is set aside for that.I also go to Spring Market, HQ Retail Academy and try to spend time with my sister once a year.  I also try to get to Tennessee at least once a year to see my boys, and their families and my other three grandsons

Do you have a hobby that isn’t sewing related? Music, gardening, my grandsons and DIY around my house.  Trimming out my windows, putting down hardwood flooring, new baseboards, etc.  Takes me a while since my time is limited and I’m learning as I’m going – but boy, sometimes just pulling the carpet up, or using a nail gun is so freeing and relaxing in a different way.  I’m not afraid of trying new things and if something is too heavy – I call my son-in-law who is always willing to come and be muscle for me.  But seeing the finished project all pretty and shiny knowing I did it with my own two hands – so rewarding.

What are the store successes you’re most proud of? I think that I even tried it.  It was a dream that was made into a reality.  I kept telling myself that even if we don’t “make” it, I need to be proud of the fact that I tried  I have doubted so many of my decisions and my own capabilities, but did not give up.  There have been many mornings that I have started my day listening to Carrie Underwood singing The Champion or Kelly Clarkson singing Stronger.  There are so many things you really don’t know when you start your own business – such as having to pay Property Tax on your inventory.  Learning about all the tax filings and payroll filings.  Wondering if it is even worth it all. Then a customer comes in and gives you a hug because they read the blog and it hit home with them.  They realize they are not alone and they have a place they can come to de-stress and feed their hobby.  What is my biggest success?  That’s hard.  I didn’t give up, we didn’t give up and we are helping others not to either.  No matter what their “battle” is, they can come here to refocus, learn something, gain a friend, get a hug and feel loved.  I may not have the biggest profit at the end of the year but knowing we have touched people’s lives is worth more than what that report will ever show.

 

Lynn and Lyssa enjoy the fun of having a commercial photo shoot.

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Meet Back Door Quilts

Store name: The Back Door, Inc, DBA Back Door Quilts

Linda (left) and Teri in the front of the shop

Owners: Linda Hale and Teri Dougherty
Store location: 2503 Fairview Rd, Greenwood, IN 46142
Phone: (317) 882-2120

Greenwood is a suburb of Indianapolis, and we are located in a strip mall

Region of the country: North East Central. Midwest
Years in business:  46 in May 2019
Types of special services offered: Longarm Quilting, plus the usual quilt shop expertise on all things creative!

Number of employees:  19 including the two owners, mostly part time, plus Club Hostesses and teachers

Website: www.backdoorquilts.com
Facebook: backdoorquilts
Instagram: @backdoorquilts

Forty-five years is a long time to be in business! Can you give us a history of your store?  Linda lived in a neighborhood where the women would get together and do crafts.  They kept wanting her to teach them how to do things, so she started the shop in her basement with two other neighbors.  She would tell them to come to the back door, since her babies were sleeping.  After just a few months, they moved to a storefront, which was expanded several times.  The shop moved to the present location 30 years ago, and has expanded several times again.  Linda’s partners have changed as their life circumstances have changed, and her present partner, Teri, has worked at the shop for 36 years, becoming a partner 25 years ago.

How has the store evolved and changed in order to continuously stay fresh and current?  Linda was once told to watch the trends, get into the latest and get out before it became old and stale.  She has a particularly good sense of what works for us!

How do the partners split up the duties? Linda is the creative visionary force behind the shop.  She stitches and makes samples and works tirelessly to make the shop the very best it can be, one that she would love to visit.  Teri takes care of the class schedule, weekly e-mailing, and social media.  She also helps with samples, kitting, and whatever needs to be done.

You have an extensive education program. How do you decide what classes to put on your schedule? Who teaches your classes?  Most of our teachers also work at the shop.  They have a good feel for what kinds of classes the customers want.  Our best filling classes are the Beginning Quitlmaking Class and the Beginning Machine Embroidery Class.  Other popular classes include monthly bag making classes.

With the amount of shows you do, how do you keep organized so you have the correct merchandise and can get set up and taken down easily? Any tips for others who do shows?  We have a show inventory list that changes a little with each show, depending on the duration, location, and what other vendors are there.  A couple weeks before, we see what we have in the shop and what we need to order, and make notes of what has been ordered.  As we are packing, we note the number of each item we are taking, and at the end of the show, use another color to note what we have  left.  We don’t have a POS, so this works for us!

Standing at the cutting table, you see a beautiful section of batiks (we have 1000!).

What are the store successes you’re most proud of? We were really pleased to be included in the Quilt Sampler in the Spring of 2005.  We also love hearing new customers (and their husbands!) say what a nice shop we have.  We have had visitors from all over the world!

Hand Embroidery Section

What has been the most surprising part of owning a store?  After all these years, it is still fun to get up and go to work every day!  The customers have become friends, our staff are our family, and there’s something new every day.

Once you’ve exhausted the opportunities for a sample, what do you do with it? Do you create your samples to be timeless?  Some of our samples belong to the sample maker and go back to them once we’re done with them.  We usually have a sample sale before Thanksgiving and weed out samples that are no longer selling patterns and fabric.  We usually make our samples to be timeless, like using batiks that are easily substituted to keep a sample relevant for a long time.  If we use a specific fabric line, we make an easy sample that can be completed quickly.

Our best example is the Glad Creations pattern Summer Romance.  It showed up in several pictures in Quilt Sampler 2005, and was one of our most popular patterns for several years.  Batiks got brighter and clearer over the years, and we made an “anniversary” version in 2015 with brighter batiks.  Recently a customer said she had never seen it before—she thought it was brand new!

Wool supplies are a large portion of your inventory. Do you still find that area going strong? Do you buy your wool from individual dyers or rely on distributors? It’s hard for us to buy wool over the internet.  We buy some basics from fabric companies, like B. Black or Marcus or Moda, but often pick out wool for specific projects at shows from vendors like One Wing Wool and Blackberry Primitives.  Occasionally Teri will cook a batch of wool to tone down the color, and she washes all the basic wools at home.

Wool Department

Where do you do the work of the business? Is there an office in the store or off site?  Linda’s husband Jim does all our bookkeeping in his home office.  Teri does almost all the other business from her phone!

With a busy store, how do you balance your life?   We both work Monday-Saturday but there are other employees there as well.  We try to leave around 3 or so every day, spend lots of time with our grandchildren (who sometimes come to visit), and use our travel time to shows to discuss new projects and the directions in which we want to go.

What are your biggest frustrations as a business owner?  Having people come in the shop or to classes/clubs and brag about their cheaper purchases.

What does a customer see first when they come into your store?  Our Christmas Tree that changes with the seasons, and lots and lots of quilts!

Here’s our seasonal tree as you enter the shop, and a view to the back of the shop.

How have you created and maintained a store community? We have lots of different Club meetings, and often invite new customers to come and try a meeting to see if they like it.  It’s a blessing to see the friendships that have formed in the Clubs, and on our First Saturday events.

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Meet Apron Strings Quilt Shop

Apron Strings Quilt Shop
Located in historic downtown Maysville, Kentucky, Apron Strings Quilt Shop is a 2017 Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler Featured Shop. In 2013, Apron Strings relocated their shop to Maysville, a traditional small town “river town” with a charming historic downtown area.

Shop Owner: Mary Honaker
Address and phone number: 52 West 2nd Street, Maysville, KY 41056 (606)584.7414
Region of the country: Southeast Central USA
Years in business: We have been open 12 years, as of July 2019.
Types of special services offered:
We sell quilting fabric and notions in a happy friendly environment. We also offer a small selection of Janome sewing machines and provide longarm quilting services, too.
Number of employees: ASQS has one almost full time and four part time employees, in addition to myself.
Social media info: We are active on Facebook and Instagram. We have a twitter account, but frankly, I use too many words to tweet!
Website: www.apronstringsquiltshop.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ApronStringsQuiltShop
Instagram: instagram.com/ApronStringsQuiltShop
Twitter: twitter.com/HappyQuiltShop

How wide of an area does your store draw customers from?
With a geographic location so relatively close to Cincinnati, Ohio and Lexington, Kentucky we regularly draw customers from both of those regions. Much like our local folks will take a trip to “the city” to buy fabric at some of the great shops in the Cincinnati area or the Lexington area, those folks come to visit us too. Part of the fun is the journey, right?

Do you find your proximity to Paducah is an asset or a distraction? We are still more than five hours from Paducah, so it doesn’t really impact us on a regular basis. When we are nearing the spring show, however, many of our regional folks that go to Paducah will start saving their fun money to take to the show, so we won’t see them as often. Many times they come back and show me the great stuff they bought at the show … that we also have on our shelves. Again, part of the fun is the journey.

How did you choose the colors for the interior of your store? I’ve always been a “blue” girl, but a chance encounter with aqua at a gift shop several years ago led me to my love affair with Tantalizing Teal from Sherwin Williams that is going strong after seven years. Even my daily travel mug and computer cover are nearly the exact color of my shop walls! (Sometimes, my mug “disappears” into the aqua abyss!)

What do you find are some ongoing challenges you need to deal with regularly? When we first started renting our current space, the original family that owned our building was still in possession of it. Although it was for sale, there hadn’t even been any legitimate offer made on the space in over seven years. It had been basically storage for some building supplies and other things. After getting it all cleaned up and painted, we had been open exactly six months (to the day) when someone came in and fell in love with our building. By some amazing stroke of luck, that deal didn’t happen, but shortly thereafter, the building sold. The original family was gracious enough to include us as part of the conditions of their transaction. We were to remain in the space for two years without any type of rent increase. About six months after our two years had passed, the second owner decided he was going to put the building up for sale, so we had to go through that agonizing experience again. We were fortunate enough to sign another two-year lease that was agreed upon by the purchaser. Thankfully, the current owner is remodeling an adjacent space in our building for his own offices.

Although we are going through some demolition and re-construction side effects, I think we will be all the better for having someone with a vested interest in building maintenance occupying the same building. He has also expressed that they have no interest in the shop leaving.

Otherwise, my ongoing challenges are the same as I’m sure we all face. How do we stay relevant? How do we continue to appeal to new quilters, while keeping our more experienced customers challenged? More recently my challenge has been with balancing work and family life. My mother is aging, so I want to make sure I’m available for her. I also feel like while working to grow our business, I’ve become less and less available for maintaining friend relationships that are outside of the industry. I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to devote some time for relationships outside of the shop.

You create a lot of kits for your store. What are some of the components you feel are important in including in them? Most importantly, I want to ensure that everything that is supposed to be in our kit is in our kit. I also want a kit to make life EASIER for our customers. They shouldn’t have to figure out what we used where. Labeling all of the components helps to ensure a good experience. Frankly, it’s a LOT of extra work. Sometimes I jokingly think that this would be a great service to provide to other shops.

Which social media platforms do you use the most and how have you trained your customers to look there first? I use Facebook and Instagram. Facebook is still the most used platform, although I feel like there was some sort of step away (in general) from Facebook for a lot of people. I believe it was prompted by too much political drama but many people have enjoyed the departure and didn’t come back. I still see more interaction from actual customers (both near and far) from Facebook than with IG.

What are the store successes you’re most proud of? I feel like our shop still has miles to go but just the fact that we’ve been able to reach some of the milestones we have never fails to amaze me. When you consider that I opened a quilt shop in 2007 and didn’t sew a stitch at that time to being able to sustain nearly 12 years of business, while gaining a loyal brick and mortar customer base and a small but growing online customer base, is truly humbling. We’ve been able to garner some national press both in print and online, and each time I question whether they meant to contact us. I was brought up to not talk about yourself, so it’s been difficult at times to realize that when I’m promoting the shop, I’m not bragging about me. The work that my staff and I have put into the shop has created an environment that people want to experience. That’s a pretty cool thing! If I’m not willing to shout that from the roof tops, then who will?

How has your store evolved since your first day? We met with our very first industry rep in early 2007. I asked Kim Polson (Moda) “so do you think 50 bolts will be enough to open a quilt shop?” She looked me squarely in the eyes and said “no” in a very sisterly kind of way. She was so informative, supportive, and honest. I knew from that moment that she was my go-to gal when I needed information that wasn’t sugar coated. She is forever entwined in our quilt shop story. When we moved our shop to Maysville we got another great Moda rep, Mark Pytel. It took me a while to get past being required to change reps. Mark is also an important part of our story with his ability to connect the dots and present opportunities that we might have otherwise missed.

Speaking of change, our first six years in Flemingsburg we were a very small very traditional shop. It was supportive of what the ladies in the area were interested in using to create their beautiful quilts. We decided to move the shop from the small rural community of Flemingsburg, Kentucky just a short drive away to Maysville, Kentucky. Many of the core customer group that had supported us originally in Flemingsburg had stopped sewing as often. Some had stopped sewing at all. I decided that if we were going to close, I wanted to know that I had done everything that I could to make the shop work. This meant trusting my own instincts in ordering, presentation, displays, and customer service. It also meant I needed to be present much more than working full time had allowed me to be. I quit my full-time job as a high school video production teacher, moved the shop to a bigger location, and became the full time shop owner/operator.

Although we still have traditional fabrics represented, I focused my ordering on two words: Bright & Happy. Things that made me smile to look at. Fabrics that would attract new sewists. Prints that were modern-ish, but not in a way that were too far out of the box for our customer base. We ramped up our pre-cut selection. We created an atmosphere where you are welcomed, and hopefully inspired. We painted our walls aqua with a splash of lime green on the upper level. We made sure our kits were never just thrown together in a bag. We revamped our logo. We created classes and events that catered to folks that were beginners, new mothers, new grandmothers, teenagers, retirees, or anyone else that wanted success and a tribe of people to be their cheering squad.

We hired employees that were younger and have different ways of thinking so we could see things from a different perspective on not only fabric, but also social issues. We don’t always agree, but it’s okay. (For the record, matters of religion, politics, societal injustices, etc. aren’t discussed by staff around customers.) My point is that I have a different view on some of these issues than the amazing ladies that are older than I am who operated the shop while I worked full time. The girls who are younger have different viewpoints than I do. We can all learn from each other and hopefully be able to assist all our customers from a place of greater understanding …  that even if we don’t agree about everything, we can still create and supportively coexist in this space.

What has been the most surprising part of owning a store? There is NEVER a moment where you can safely feel like you’ve reached your goals. There’s always something else to learn. Something else to achieve. Something else to dust. Because of that, you’ve got to do your best and know that it’s okay if it doesn’t all happen today.

Do you take business classes, either online or locally? I had a few business classes in college but this shop wasn’t even a “what-if” at that point in time. I do read a lot of blogs, business magazines, etc. but I’ve not had any real training of any ongoing nature. (Wait – does learning from your mistakes count?)

Do you bring in designers as teachers for special events? How far in advance do you plan these? Do you have some tips? A few years ago, we took over the planning for our regional quilt show. Since that time we have brought in at least one nationally known “sew-lebrity” to teach and lecture at that event. The best case scenario is to start planning for the next event right after the last event is over. That’s not always practical if you are wearing a lot of hats. I guess my best piece of advice is to have a plan B, and also a plan C … and then be willing to roll with the changes while everything that you’ve planned on falls apart. It will fall back together. Hopefully, the grace you’ve extended to someone else will be returned to you when you need it. And trust me – you will need it.

What jobs do you expect employees to do and which do you do yourself? How do you delegate the work? I expect everyone to be able to assist customers. Everyone should be cleaning when something needs done. Otherwise, myself and one other employee handle the website/point of sale input. That employee also does most of our longarm quilting. The two ladies that ran the shop while I worked take care of most of our sample creation now. They also come back in for special events like shop hops or quilt show week. I’m horrible at delegating, so I’ve been fortunate that on MOST days, things fall into a groove and we all find the space we are needed for most.

What kind of store security precautions do you take? We have two sets of security cameras. One that is just on while we are gone, and one that runs all the time. Both can be viewed remotely. We are in a relatively safe area, so there are probably some security issues that I should have a plan for that I naively haven’t addressed yet.

When you have a day off, what do you typically do? Who manages the store when you’re out? I’d love to say I sleep in and then watch tv or read a book. However, at some point I lost the ability to sleep in. I miss it! I typically will cook a great comfort food kind of meal. You know – the kind you can’t pull off in an hour after work. Laundry is also always on the agenda. I get the biggest sense of satisfaction for the 20 minutes that my laundry is absolutely completely finished.

Do you have a hobby that isn’t sewing related? Aerosmith. Weird hobby, I know. I’ve been an obsessed fan since I was 12. I’ve seen them 50 plus times in concert. We have shop posts on band members birthdays. Sometimes, we have cake at the shop to share with customers! I know it’s not professional, but it’s who I am. Our RowByRow was Steven Tyler’s Mic Stand.

What do you want your customers to feel when they come in the store? I want them to feel like they can do it! I want them to feel happy, and to feel comfortable. I most of all want them to feel inspired.

QT FabricsThank you to our Open for Business sponsor
QT Fabrics for making this feature possible.

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Meet Back Porch Fabrics

Back Porch Fabrics
Store name:
Back Porch Fabrics
Store owner: Gail Abeloe
Address and phone number: 157 Grand Ave, Pacific Grove, CA  93950; (831) 375-4453
Region of the country: California West Pacific
Years in business: 23
Website: http://www.backporchfabrics.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Back-Porch-Fabric

Back Porch Fabrics is located in an old warehouse which has been renovated and updated for retail use. The warm, pine flooring, rough textured walls and high ceilings with massive support beams provide a wonderful backdrop for the colorful fabrics and quilts that fill the store. It is a full-service quilt store located on the Monterey Peninsula of central California. The shop has been in Quilt Sampler, 2003 and an Encore Shop, 2011.

How has your store evolved since your first day?
We are celebrating 23 years in business. Lots of changes have occurred in the quilting industry over time, however, we are still playing with fabric and having lots of fun. We sell inspiration by the yard! Running a quilt shop is like having a party every day but you don’t know who will be coming in and what they will bring to show us.

What are the store successes you’re most proud of?
My favorite part of owing a quilt shop is the constant new ideas for what can be done with fabric. I enjoy attending Quilt Market twice a year. I’m always looking for creative ways to sew with fabric and I usually find lots of books and patterns at Quilt Market. We stock and sell over 400 book titles.

How have you created a quilting community through your store?
Since we are located on the Monterey Peninsula in California between Monterey and Pebble Beach/Carmel, we get lots of quilters from all over the world. Our local quilters are very loyal customers and put on a quilt show each year two blocks from our shop. I always do a special on-going demonstration at our shop for customers attending the quilt show.

The Empty Spools Seminars are held at Asilomar, one mile from our shop. We run a shuttle bus after classes to our shop. Each of the five sessions has over 150 happy quilters who spend the entire week with one teacher.  I have learned a lot about choosing fabric to sell from the wonderful teachers and their students at Empty Spools. In 2014, I got to be Artist in Residence and spent the whole week creating a different quilt top each day from left-overs from different projects.

I have also attended Empty Spools many times. Last year I took Kathy Doughty’s 60-degree shape class exploring triangles, diamonds and hexagons.

How do you manage classes and teachers?
Twelve super employees work part-time at Back Porch Fabrics. Some of them also teach classes in addition to four local teachers. Our local quilt guild brings in national teachers.

Every month, Back Porch Fabric has a demo day. There is a Free quilt pattern and the demo shoes how to sew the pattern. There are two sessions and door prizes at both sessions, as well as show and tell. Customers just show up and enjoy the fun! When they attend four demos and bring back three projects made with Back Porch fabrics, they earn a gift certificate for a free class!

Download the Saturday Demo information HERE!

Can you explain what your Quilt Gallery is about?
Our classroom also serves as a Quilt Gallery. We always have a quilt show on display. We usually feature talented local artists, and occasionally feature quilters with a national reputation. The large walls and high ceilings in our gallery accommodate even the largest quilts. We do six shows a year. Usually the show is local quilters, but we have also had several shows of work by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. Del Thomas (who owns many of Ruth B. McDowell’s quilts) will be showing quilts from her Contemporary Quilt Collection again this year. We just hung the quilt show. Our website hows current and future shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to our Open for Business sponsor
QT Fabrics for making this feature possible.

 

 

 

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Meet Quilted Ceiling

Store name: Quilted Ceiling
Who owns the store: Steven and Mary Lee Nielson.
Address and phone number: 316 Central Ave. N, Valley City, ND; 701-845-4926
Years in business: Quilted Ceiling opened its doors November 4, 2005 – 14 years in 2019.
Number of employees: The store employs one full time woman (manager/buyer), five part-time women and also have five ladies who will fill in when needed

All social media info:
Website:
quiltedceiling.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/QuiltedCeiling — Facebook is used to show new items in the store as well as new finished quilts, or other happenings in the store.
Email: info@quiltedceiling.com

We send out an email newsletter with dates of classes and other special events.  A copy is available on our web site.

Types of special services offered: Quilted Ceiling has a web store that showcases all the fabric including, jelly rolls, charms and layer cakes.  Bridal couples are also listed on the web site with the date of the wedding and a listing with pictures of what they registered for.

Where did the name for your store come from? Our unique name came from one of our employees who said we should have quilt squares on the ceiling and call the store Quilted Ceiling.  We had 50+ people helping us paint the ceiling panels.  Each one has a different quilting pattern. A teacher brought her class of first graders and did the actual name and decorated the letters for the panels above the door when you come in.  This brought a lot of buy-in for the store as the artists brought in their families to show them their quilting square on the ceiling.

 

What do customers see first when they come into your store? When you first come into the store you are greeted across the room by beautiful sample quilts hanging from the ceiling.  As you gaze downward you will see a display of gift items.  Walking towards the back you will see rows of fabric and several walls filled with notions.  In the summer we get quite a few tourists and ask them to sign our guest book by the door.  It is so surprising to see where they all come from.  We are also supported by our local community and smaller towns around Valley City.

How do you delegate the workload among your employees? The work load is shared by all who work here.  Each employee is in charge of cutting at least one block of the month and they each have to be in charge of ordering for a category in the store.   One gal orders all the notions each week, one orders for the kitchen area, one does all the books and patterns, manager does all the giftware ordering and fabric ordering and so on.

From your social media: “Just a warning, you may laugh a lot if you come in. We have a lot of quick wits around here!”  Does your staff get along well? Many say Quilted Ceiling is the happiest store in town.  I don’t know about that but we all seem to have a good time and get along well.  One customer has said many times “if you ever need a volunteer just let me know, I love this happy place!”

How do you select teachers for your classes? Teachers are usually hard to find but we have been fortunate to have some of our employees also teach classes.  We also have about six ladies that do samples for us and some also teach classes.  We have had several teachers come in and show their new patterns and teach the technique used in their patterns.  At the present time we haven’t been doing a lot of classes as it seems it is getting harder and harder to fill the classes.

What are some of the ways your community shows support for your store? We are lucky to have three long arm quilters in our area and are happy to have their customers drop off quilts to be quilted and then pick them up when finished.  We have a list of sewers who will do alterations and give out their business cards for those in need.  We have a group of ladies who come every morning and afternoon for coffee in our break room and the best part is quite often they bring treats.  Not too long ago there were 17 ladies in our small break room, some standing and some sitting. Word of mouth is our most effective advertising.  We wouldn’t exist if quilters didn’t talk to each other!  It is amazing when folks from other states come in because they heard about us from other quilters.

How does your shop hop work? We have been in several shop hops over the years and each one has their own way of doing things.  The shop hop we will be part of this April will have around eight shops in it.  Customers draw for a 10, 15 or 20 per cent discount on their purchase, we stamp their pass port and usually give them a recipe for the treat we are serving.  We also give them a free pattern for the block our store created and show them the finished block made up.  We have kits made up for sale for those who want their block to look like ours.  Each store makes up a block and if the customer goes to each store they will have eight free block patterns for a quilt.  Those customers who have gone to all eight shops and had their passport stamped at each store turns it in at the last store.  Shop owners meet the week after the hop and throw all finished passports in a basket and draw for 1st prize and 2nd prize.

Your website says you have the largest notions supply in the area. How do you keep up with what’s new with notions as well as keeping your notions area well stocked? We are known for our large selection of notions.  Each week the gal in charge of ordering notions goes through the notions and makes a list of missing notions (this is where inventory tags are a must).  Unless it is something that has been on the wall a very long time she reorders each notion and then she goes through all the new items from each distributor and decides what would be good notions for our customers and adds those to her order.  We have slat wall throughout the store, most of our notions are easy to see and access as they are hanging.

 

 

 

 

What are your biggest frustrations and struggle as a business owner? It is most frustrating to hear a customer say “I didn’t know you were here.”  When we started we were on TV. We are on the local radio station weekly and advertise in the paper.  QC is part of a billboard on the interstate.  We are on FaceBook and have a website.  What more can you do?

How does the gifts area fit into your store? What advice can you give quilt shops who want to add gifts? When you live in a smaller town it is very hard to be a store that only sells on thing.  You have to be diversified.  We have our gift area in the front of the store, which includes an extensive kitchen area, picture frames, religious items, stoneware dishes, Oneida flatware, glassware, candles, jewelry, purses, signs and home décor.  The manager does the gift ordering as well as the fabric ordering.  We use to go to Minneapolis Gift Mart but in the past few years’ reps from different companies call on us and we order from them.  Having the gift area helps to bring in people that aren’t quilters and sometimes they end up buying something that has nothing to do with gifts.  If you are thinking of adding a gift department in your quilt store, I would start out small and see how it goes.  Remember you can’t just order what you like.  It is just like fabric; you have to order somethings that others will like.

Are there certain fabric or pattern designers you typically stock? Quilted Ceiling orders fabric from Wilmington, Moda, Riley Blake, Quilting Treasures, Hoffman, Northcott, RJR, Studio E, Free Spirit, Marcus, Shannon, Windham, Benartex, etc.  Right now Kimberbell seems to be the patterns of choice.

Open for Business is brought to you by American Quilt Retailer, a trade publication for independent quilt shop owners, and sponsored by QT Fabrics.