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:
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.
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.