What’s your biggest challenge right now?

My biggest challenge is, well, getting reorganized. We were just flooded out in the first rental that we had. We have now since moved from 203 Water St. to 405 Water St. and are in the middle of rearranging to get our store up and running again. Right now we are currently closed due to the water damage and the relocation issue.

Well, it wasn’t a flood. It was a sewer pipe that broke from the apartment up above. We lost machines, and we lost about $4,000 worth of fabric. We are in a state of chaos right now. Our anticipated opening date would be … we’re shooting for June 1, however, it may be mid-June, maybe even July 1. Classes will continue (now). We have classrooms here, and (classes) have continued since we’ve since we moved. We only missed like one class. They’ll stay going until the middle of June, and then they’ll cease until October, when we’ll start classes up again for the fall session. I actually just opened up a new children’s class. I’m starting this Sunday from 9 to 11, because I had so many people interested in it. It’s a lot of fun. They build a lot of skills. Most of it is safety skills when you’re using these machines, but for the most part it’s a skill that they will never lose.

Who or what influenced you to be in business? 

Not anyone in particular. This was going to be my retirement job, in 10 years. However, I am a trauma nurse by trade and I got beat up pretty bad in the ER in Boston. So I am medically retired from a nursing position, hence the quilt shop came 10 years early. We did have a plan. It was something that I had wanted to do for many, many years and you know, the time was now, so we just jumped. You know, in for a penny in for a pound. And we actually have been doing quite well until we had the leak.

How do you build a customer base? 

The customers build your core. In the old building (at the corner of Water Street and Maine Avenue) was a lot of foot traffic and a lot of mouth traffic, one person telling another person, telling another person. And we actually built a pretty good customer base. I still have loyal customers that still come here. They helped us move and they still come to sewing class. I mean, they’re just very, very good people.

I think a lot of it is how you treat the people as well. There’s nobody that comes into my store that I treat any different than somebody else. It’s really appreciating just them coming in to look. They don’t have to buy anything, but the fact that they came in and they looked around to see what I had — you build a relationship like that: Answer their questions, greet them, be friendly when they come in, ask them if they need help with anything, and just strike up a conversation.

The big thing is getting into what they like and trying to pull the sewing aspect out of them. “Well, do you sew?” “I don’t know, but I used to.” “Well, OK, so what did you sew?” If they’re there to purchase fabric or something, “What are you making? Bring it back or send me pictures. I’d love to see what you’re making.”

You have to treat them like your family because these people are what’s putting food on your table. They are the people that will always come back to you.

I’m always available to the customers. I tell them I’m here seven days a week. If the lights are on, I’m open. Knock on the door, knock on the window, you know, whatever. And you’re welcome to come in. I help people all the time. They come in and say, “Oh, can you help me miter these corners?” Or, “Can you look at my sewing machine?” Just things like that. It’s the small things that make the people feel big. It makes them feel better.

I have people in my quilting class and they haven’t sewn for years. I have such a diverse background of people. I have one that was a wedding dress maker. I have a gentleman that never sewed a day in his life, but his mother-in-law passed away, and he found her sewing machine and a bunch of unfinished quilts and said that he was going to finish the quilts. He’s just fantastic.

Then I have ladies that are just here. They know how to sew, but they just wanted to come in to have socialization in a group. They say, “We’re here to support you,” as well. “We know what you’re going through, what you have been through, and we’re here to make sure that you understand that we appreciate what you do.”

My kids are just so fantastic. They’re so young and they’re just like sponges. Last night I had a little girl from my class come here so that she could make bows for her birthday party, for her friend’s hair. It’s just the little things like that that makes this so special. It makes it so much fun. It makes it so worth working seven days a week, a hundred hours a week. It’s just one of the best things ever.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved my nursing career. I loved it. But just seeing the joy out of the kids, and just seeing them grow every week in their abilities — they’ve only been sewing for five weeks and they free sew. In two weeks, they’ll start making their strip quilts. They just grab it so quickly. It’s great talking to my older students, too. I mean, the backgrounds are just so very diverse that there’s always something interesting to talk about.

What was your biggest misconception about being in business? 

My biggest misconception is that I was going to make a lot of money doing what I love. That is the biggest misconception — that people were going to flock to my store. Like the Pied Piper leading the mice. The biggest smack in the nose was that you really gotta work to get people to come into your store. You really have to build that customer base. You really have to attract people because they’re not gonna just come to you because you opened up. They want to come to you because they know that you’re reliable, that you’re friendly, that your prices are a decent price, that if they have questions that you can answer them intelligently.

How do you manage work-life balance? 

I’m here anywhere from 9:30 in the morning till 10, 11 o’clock at night, sometimes 12 o’clock. Well, we are empty nesters. My husband is retired. And because of his boredom, he has picked up a part-time job. I think because I’m never home, he actually has to call me every night to remind me I have to come home.

He stops into the shop, he fixes things for me. He hangs things up for me. If I need him to run errands, he does that. He really is fantastic. I had hip surgery last June and he watched the shop for three weeks. Now, this man doesn’t know anything about sewing and he sat there every day for three weeks watching the store. We just kind of, we just kind of do the dance. If I’ve got an appointment, he’ll come and open the store for me or if I’m going to be late, he’ll cook dinner and he’ll put it aside for me. It just works. I can’t really explain it. We’ve been married for so long that it just works.

If I opened up and closed on the hours that I have posted, I would never be where I am right now. I mean, not that we’re in a great position because we’ve just had to frantically move. But, you know, I still talk to my customers. I post something on Facebook, if not every day, every other day. We’ve opened up little crafting classes for kids. Just to keep it fresh in everybody’s mind that we are still here. We’re in the process of reorganizing because we had to, not because we wanted to. We’re like the Phoenix, we’re gonna rise again and we’ll probably be much better off where we are than where we were, although the foot traffic isn’t as great.

We had just taken over the Trading Post (space), which was right next door (to 203 Water St.)  and that’s got all of the fabric shelving settled and I was working on the classroom when this disaster happened. So we are rebuilding and it’s probably for the better. We have a much bigger space. We’re off the beaten path, however, parking is not a problem. It’s, you know, a bigger space so we can expand our services. I really would like to get a tailor in here, um, just to do alterations and things.

It’s an ongoing process, and I’m always trying to figure out ways to rebrand ourselves, to reinvent ourselves so that people stay interested. They’ll want to come in here because, “Oh, what are they doing now?” Or  something like that.


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