HALLOWELL — Lynn Irish has had a quilt shop in Hallowell for 14 years, and when she began thinking about expanding her space, she considered other places. She just couldn’t bring herself to leave Hallowell.

Irish is planning on relocating WhipperSnappers Quilt Studio a few doors down Water Street to the location at the corner of Water and Winthrop streets previously occupied by Buddy’s Diner and Hattie’s Chowder House. She expects the move to be completed and the new space to reopen before Christmas.

“I’m kind of impulsive, but the idea of moving has grown on me once I decided I was too cramped here,” said Irish, who is also an at-large Hallowell City Councilor. “I’ve been thinking about it all summer, and there just aren’t that many big spaces around.”

Irish is more than doubling the size of her studio — adding a lot to her rent — and she’ll now have almost 2,000-square-feet of retail and work space. There will be an area for her to have lunch out of public view, an office space and room for a washer and dryer. The bar has been removed, giving Irish more floor space for displays and her long-arm sewing machine.

“I’m not sure how exactly I’m going to lay everything out because there isn’t a lot of wall space, there’s a lot of windows,” she said. There are large windows and a small entrance lobby that wraps around Water and Winthrop streets, and Irish said the prime location will provide lots of natural light throughout the day.

One of the things Irish is most excited about is the possibility of holding classes and workshops in the studio, something not possible at its current location. She also recently learned of some local businesses that are closing, and she said she is hopeful she’ll be able to acquire additional displays for the new shop.

Irish hasn’t yet signed a lease for the space at 103 Water St. with the building’s owner, Gary Violette, but she expects that to happen once the renovations inside the space are completed. There is work being done to repair some sheet rock and flooring, and there may be changes to the lighting and electrical systems, too.

The only other place in Hallowell Irish considered moving to is the Stevens Commons campus, a mixed-use property at the top of Winthrop Street being developed by Matt Morrill. It will be the future home of the new Hallowell fire station, and Community Housing of Maine is working to convert one of the campus’ buildings into affordable housing.

“I looked in Augusta, but it just didn’t make sense,” Irish said. “There are a lot of restaurants on Water Street in Augusta, but there’s not enough retail.”

Irish said she likes being in Hallowell and on Water Street, and she’ll miss her current location, where she moved into almost two years ago. The shop had some serious water leaks over the summer, and Irish ended up behind on a lot of her projects. The building used to be a bank, and there is a large vault that the diner used as a walk-in cooler. Irish said she’ll use it to store the quilts she is working on for customers, offering them an added layer of protection.

With the added space comes added responsibility, and Irish has hired a second part-time employee to help once the store opens in its new location. There will be room for two people to work in the shop at the same time, and the extra room for customers means more customers can come into the store, Irish said.

“My goal during the Water Street reconstruction is to have a lot of stuff online, but to do that, I need to be able to make samples,” Irish said. “With the extra space and extra time, that can happen.”

The Maine Department of Transportation will start reconstructing a 2,000-foot stretch of the busy downtown Hallowell corridor in April, and businesses are bracing for the potential loss of business that sometimes accompanies any business district construction.

“If I can make it a more attractive shopping experience for people, I’ll be okay,” Irish said.

Irish said she expects to close for about a week to move from her current location to the new one. She has family and friends that’ll help her carry all the displays, the sewing equipment and all her products to the new shop.

“I get enough people that it usually only takes a couple of hours,” she said.

Irish said the timing, with the holiday shopping season around the corner, isn’t ideal, but Violette wants the space rented and Irish wants a bigger space. She wants to be able to have time to get samples and other things made before the Water Street project begins.

Buddy Iaciofano purchased Hattie’s for $50,000 in May 2016, and he closed the diner in July, just a little more than a year after opening. He said health problems and financial difficulties were the two big reasons for shuttering the diner, which touted its offering of all-day breakfast but never could get enough people to know it also served other lunch and dinner items.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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