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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shopping at Quilt Stores:The Care and Feeding of Community

Every time I write something about a product or a quilting toy, I find myself first looking for an online link for it, and then writing this disclaimer that it's always best to shop at a local store. It feels a bit schizoid to offer those two bits of information. But I never know what will be needful. I know there are people who live at the back of the beyond. The internet is the world's largest market place. You can find anything there if you hunt long enough. I love the ability to read reviews. I hate vacuum cleaners. This may sound like a non-sequetor , but it's not. I just bought one I love, courtesy of Amazon and the three million reviews available. It's got it's place.

So why should we ever shop anywhere else?

There's a delusion that a store is only a place to buy something. I say it's a delusion because that may be it's primary purpose, but it's not its job. Stores create community. A great store is the beginning of a great community.

How does this work? It depends on the store. It depends on their attitude and what they offer their clients.It depends on the client's willingness to join in.

Do you need to know where the local quilt guild is?
Ask the store.
Do you need someone to fix your machine?
Ask the store
Do you need someone to show your quilt to before you bust?
Take it into the store.
Do you need someone to help you match the thread or fabric?
Ask the store?
Do you need to know about new products?
Ask the store.
Do you need to know a great long arm quilter who will finish your quilt?
Ask the store.
Are you beginning to see how this works?

But past that, it's a place to meet other quilters, take amazing classes, find out what's new, share your joy, and be with people who love what you love.

Whenever I travel I ask to see the local quilt store. What I find there tells me a great deal about the community I've come to teach in. I can see if they're traditional or arty, active or passive. The store is not about the store strictly. It tells me a great deal about the people it serves.


Much sadder are the places where the store once was and is now gone. The chain stores have a bit of everything, but never the focus or range you can expect from a store specialized in quilting. It makes a huge hole in the community when a store closes.

One of my favorite quilt stores is Glacier Quilts in Kalispell, Montana. This is not an easy place to get to. It's tucked right next to Glacier National Park. And it's completely worthy.

They have a mountain of fabric. That's always good.They have a brilliant sewing machine mechanic. That's always better. They've got a wall full of notions, and books, and all the fixings.

So what makes it better than that?

They have children who are part of the store. There's a large playpen for your child and they'll let you borrow their's if you're suffering from baby withdrawal.

They have machines set up for people to just come in and use. You can work on an aids baby quilt or bring in something you're working on and do it in company.

They host amazing classes.

They bring in snacks and lattes at need.

They're right next store to a outfitters store where your husband can be parked.

They have brilliant other quilters working there who will share their opinion if asked.

They create a community where people can go.

This is one of many great stores I've seen. It's one of the very best. This is what the internet cannot bring you: community in your community.

What is the price for this community?

If you don't support little stores, they can't support you. That's also true of vendors at quilt shows. They take big risks to bring you what they have. When you see bolts and bolts of fabric, you see not their wealth but their debt. They're prices  may be a bit higher than a chain store because they probably can't buy in the same volume. 

But if you're running  off to the chain store 3 times out of 10, the chances are your little store won't be there in a year. So for perhaps 50 cents less, you can lose your little store.

We recently learned the Walmart lesson. Walmart put in fabric in their stores and undersold everyone. Everyone bought at Walmart.  No one else could compete with their buying power. Many small stores failed under that weight. Now Walmart tells us it's just too much trouble to sell fabric. After all, it takes people who help you.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a good thing. Perhaps we'll have room for more great little stores where people meet for classes, learn cool things, and care for each other.

Wrapping it up:
If you're in Kalispell, visit this shop because you'll think you went home. Visit your local store and see how they make you at home there too. Shop the internet as a last resort because it really is that. It can't ever make you feel at home. Because home is where the heart is and the internet is not a place of the heart.





Glacier Quilts
125 Hutton Ranch Road
PO Box 7274
Kalispell, MT 59901

Phone: 406-257-6966 Fax: 406-257-6969 email: info@glacierquilts.com
www.glacierquilts.com


3 comments:

Janice PD said...

You are right on the money on this. We truly get what we pay for in our lives and we should all get back to recognizing value rather than dollars.

Lynn Majidimehr said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post! It is nice to have local quilt shops that have wonderful fabrics, services and employees than shops that have no one to help you, and I am saddened every time a local quilt shop closes due to lack of customers.

Lyn Wolf Jackson said...

OK what vacuum cleaner did you buy? I have two dogs and no vacuum cleaner that i like even. Concur on the Kalispell quilt shops. Quilt Gallery and Glacier Quilts are both treats.

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