QOTD Have you ever wanted to own a quilt shop?

murphy_zone7October 15, 2010

The nearest quilt shop to me is about 45 minutes away. I am thinking of opening a shop in our town and wondered if any of you have ever owned a quilt shop, wanted to own a quilt shop, and what either made you give it up or keeps you from opening one?

Murphy

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ritaweeda

I've thought about it before and if a person really wants to that's great. But the old saying "the grass is always greener on the other side" is usually true. There's a small quilt shop here and when it first opened the owner was all excited and had just retired from a regular job working for another person and now she was going to do it her way. But as the years go by I see the stress of owning a business really settle into her face. You see, it's not just that you get to be surrounded by beautiful fabrics and supplies and fancy sewing machines, and wonderful people coming in and oohing and aahing, and friendly sewing classes with sack lunches, it's making it work financially, it's pleasing the customer and catering to the difficult ones who can't figure out how much yardage they need, and what colors to choose, and complaints about you not stocking exactly the fabric lines, types and sizes that they want. It's paying the bills and being there day after day even when you're sick because you can't afford to pay for hired help. It's a bit different from going into the sewing room whenever you feel like it to have a hobby.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 6:56AM
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toolgranny

I hope Quiltpartner will weigh in here. She's done it and will have good input.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 9:04AM
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msmeow

Great topic, Murphy! I've never considered opening a shop (my hubby's been the manager of a mom & pop retail store for many years, and it really SUCKS!), but I have considered quilting for a living. It doesn't take long before the list of "cons" is so much longer than the "pros" that I decide to keep my nice church job with paid benefits and 26 vacation days a year! LOL

Donna

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 9:33AM
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grammyp

We have owned a business before and I really wouldn't want to right now. I think I would love to run a B&B and host quilt retreats. Perhaps I can put it next to your shop.

beverly

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 10:25AM
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quiltpartner

OK - here goes :)

I owned a quilt shop w/my mother (& best friend next to DH) for 7 yrs. I had worked FT in medical field & gave it up after the store was open 7 mo - we were too busy for her to handle it alone. Giving up my income was difficult for our family, but not at first. At first it was just great being at the shop, surrounded by beautiful fabrics & wonderful people. (If the grumpy ones came in the door, I sometimes headed for the RR - who needs that headache?!!LOL I'd pass them on to mom - what a good mom!!
We had the kind of shop that people would often come into just to unwind, touch the fabrics & leave feeling better. Our classes were always full, we had them nearly every day of the week. Our block of the months were hugely successful, we often ran 3-6 simultaneously to keep up w/the demand.
But as my mom aged, she enjoyed the public less & less - she is an artist, & her art came first. She is a fabulous quilter & long-armer. We did hire add'l help, 2 of the 5 were great. Ironically, the friends we hired worked out best --- the 'experts' w/experience, well they were all let go.
I will make this clear -- we opened on a shoestring budget. You realistically need a minimum of $25,000 to start. Sounds like a lot, but believe me, w/anything less you will come to regret it. Besides the initial inventory, you have to have rent/utility/insurance,etc monies on hand for at least 1 yr. You MUST keep in mind that you are at the mercy of your customers!! (Which translates to don't hide in the RR when the grumps come in - bow, scrape & KB when you have to!) If they are in a financial bind, they will not be buying - even tho they may want to in the worst way:) I have a few wealthy friends who bought regularly, but a few won't cut it. Remember--altho we fabri-holics can't live w/out our stash, there sometimes comes a time when we HAVE to live off of it. As in not buying more. Fabric is not bread, milk or gas for the car. When times are tough, there just isn't always extra to spend --- & we all know times are tough for most right now & may be for awhile yet. (As a side, our city wasn't hit all that bad by the economy, we didn't have large factories/businesses close, just the 'usual' tightening of the belts.) The last 18 months we were open the constant comment was 'I have to use up my stash before I buy any more'. Truthfully - we heard that every January/February since we opened. Chalk it up to New Year's Resolutions I guess. But that last yr+ we heard it daily! We had been told by business experts that if you make it to the 5th yr, you're good to go. We did not see a profit until then, but then business slowed, & the profit margin slipped dramatically (then disappeared:(.
I don't mean to sound like a real wet blanket here, but since you asked... :) I just strongly suggest you really do the research, wait until all your ducks are in a row & you have the capital necessary. You will never please every customer, it's humanly impossible - but that's not to say you can't have a great shop, one that people love to go to & will make it a success for you. I'm happy to answer any of your questions, if I haven't completely scared you to death!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 10:32AM
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toolgranny

And, someone open a retirement home next to Beverly's for old quilters with lots of big spaces and sewing machines. Wheel chair ramps and good food would be nice.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 10:32AM
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toolgranny

Cindy, that's such good input. I think everyone will benefit from it. And, give Mom our best.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 11:02AM
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quiltpartner

Linda, you'e sweet to think of my mom. I love her like crazy & can't live long enough to thank her for all she's taught me - both quilting & life in general:) She is so incredibly gifted - while I was relaxing away at camp, she was rebuilding yet another home in Gulfport (Katrina). This was her 8th or 9th trip to either Gulfport or New Orleans. Not that I feel guilty, mind you! Wouldn't have missed camp for the world! But next year I hope to bring her along - she would love it as much as I did!!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 11:11AM
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ritaweeda

Quiltpartner, what a great wealth of advice, it sounds like your story is very similar to the lady here. I live in a small town and the unemployment here is extremely high. Working people just can't spare the money for the nice stuff, barely can afford Walmart, so this shop has got to be hurting. I never go in unless I intend to at least buy one yard of something, and I never complain about the prices. I do try to go whenever they have a sale and buy a little more. I don't go often because I'm not earning money either - but at the same time I would hate to see it close, it's nice to know it's there, just hope there are enough well-to-do quilters around here to keep it going.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 12:21PM
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lola99

Very interesting discussion.

This summer while on a road trip, we stopped for dinner in a little town in the middle of miles and miles of wheat fields. I tried to find the population of the town on line, but all I found was the population of the county - 1,762! So you get the picture, this is a LITTLE town very far from any population center.

As we were about to go into a restaurant for dinner I noticed a quilt shop across the street. My first thought was “how could a town this size support a quilt shop?” Needless to say I had to stop in and I found to my surprise that exactly half the store was a quilt shop and half was a state liquor store.

(It was 5 minutes to closing time and the owner obviously wanted to get out on time, so I browsed quickly. I found a bolt of fabric that looked exactly like what I needed to back a quilt I’ve been working on for years. I think I was in the shop for a total of 4 minutes and I walked out with 4 yards of fabric! Luckily, when I got home I found the fabric was just right and I’m so glad I bought it.)

In any case, my point is that perhaps running a quilt store that also sells something that is less economically sensitive could help smooth out the cyclicality of revenues and profits.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 1:38PM
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ritaweeda

LOL! A liquor store! You know, those people are geniuses! Listen, come to think of it, even though the economy is in the ground here, the liquor stores, bars, tobacco shops, etc. are seeming to do just fine. Also there are all these strange online gambling places popping up everywhere here, real seamy looking joints but boy, you should see the cars parked out front especially on the weekends. There's a thought! The ladies go to the quilt shop and just wait until the dudes to the gambling/drinking joints! Every time the guy wins something or gets too smashed to know what he's doing, he hands the cash over to the lady and she blows it in the quilt shop! Only in the good ol' USA!!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 1:58PM
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nanajayne

I am sure it is the dream of many of us to be involved in the quillting business, especially a fabric store when they are few and far between. I often see a place that would be a perfect spot and know there are lots of quilters in the area that would appreciate a shop that carried REAL fabric----but I also know that it is a risky venture without proper business experience and the will to be patient. There is some wonderful input here and I can only wish success to anyone that would open a shop in my town or any place that needs one but I appreciate the caution needed to accomplished any new adventure. Jayne

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 2:04PM
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petalpatsy

I don't want to have a quilt shop, but I do want other people to want to have a quilt shop so I can visit it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 3:35PM
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msmeow

Lola, the LQS in my town is in the bowling alley! And I think she's doing pretty well.

Donna

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 4:49PM
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polardreams

Having owned 3 businesses, there is no way I would want to own a quilt shop (unless of course I had won the Powerball lottery and making money was not an objective!)

Our LQS has been open for 25 years - Laura has fabrics & her husband sells furniture out of the same shop. They have moved locations 4 times in the 25 years but always the furniture & fabrics together. Her last move had lots of clients helping load the trucks & unload at the new location!

Great advice has been given - just make sure you have enough $$ to keep it going!
Good luck on your decision.

Sue/polardream

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 5:29PM
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toolgranny

Liquor and quilting? That's not new! But, wouldn't want to run a business in that.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 9:26PM
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mary_c_gw

Liquor and fabrics? May well be a good combo for a very small town. Me- I'd drink myself to death worrying about the quilt shop, LOL.

I really appreciate my LQS. I helped them move a few years ago, because I had a huge van with removable seats. They gave me a full bolt of fabric (20 yds), and they call me when they get in something they think I will like.

I also know, thoroughly and completely, that I don't ever want to own a shop. I might work in one part time at a low wage, but own?- NO. Too much work. Not enough compensation. Massive amounts of paperwork. Public to deal with - and while many are delightful, some are just horrid, and there's no cure for that.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 9:49PM
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calliope

After twenty years of owning a business, I think I'll push it just one more year until I hit official social security age and then it's history. A customer had to cajole me into going for year 21.

Quiltpartner tells it like it is. I guess I am a success story since two years is what they say for greenhouses and nurseries when most fold. The only way I've stayed afloat is knowing my product and by modifying my business plans frequently and staying on top of the market and in the last five years anyway it's the wholesale end of it paying the bills.

Even more than the economy what killed privately owned small businesses here is convenience. It's too easy to buy gas/groceries/pharmacy/and flowers all in one stop after work and that means the *marts in the mall strips. I have a friend who owns a large orchard. When I stopped there last year we were discussing the same subject and he says that fall used to mean cars driving out to the country to buy pumpkins and ciders and his apples........but not anymore. It's too easy to pick a plastic bag of them up at the marts. He also has competition from producers as far away as Africa and Asia vying for his market niche on the wholesale.

Yes, the LQS and fabric stores are becoming scarce and "we see" a niche to be filled. But, you have to ask yourself why they've become scarce and have a good reason why the same forces driving them out won't also drive you out.

I've run the good race, and I'm in semi-retirement now and have many things to do instead of living in my business so I'm not upset that it's phasing down. The timing couldn't have been any better. I'm just glad I started it when I did when the entrepreneurial opportunities were on the upswing.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 10:24PM
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faytay

Great Question. I'm with Beverly. If I win the lotto I'm opening a B&B Retreat.

Faye

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 6:19AM
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murphy_zone7

Wow! thank you all so much, did not expect such wonderful insights into this question. Once again you just proved that quilters are a very generous group.
I am in the extremely early phases of thinking about this. And I am NOT convinced this is the move I want to make. I am retired and will start drawing SS next year, thanks to calliope for mentioning that...would owning a business affect my benefits? One of my thoughts was I would not need the shop to support myself, just to support itself. Any profit would be extra. But SS is something to think about, and will need to be looked into.
Many many thanks to quiltpartner for her detailed response. You certainly have a grasp on this subject and I deeply appreciate the time you took to respond. Your points are well taken especially about the "difficult" customers. I know they all can't be as nice as us!! LOL
I had already decided that this could not be done without an initial investment of at least $20,000. Good to know that $25 would be more realistic.
I live in a town that had a quilt shop that closed about a year ago. The owner had a wonderful shop (to me anyway) but for a variety of reasons, she sold out and closed.
We have two active guilds of about 100 members each in this town. We have two options to purchase fabric, Hancocks and Hobby Lobby or drive for 45 minutes.
I think combining the quilt shop with another "business" would be a good idea. Not sure about the liquor store though, although I think it could be successful....."buy a bottle get a fat quarter free" promotion. but perhaps a bar/quilt shop combo, catering to the ladies only. Something to think about. LOL There are a lot of retirees in this area....so a place near one of the retirement homes might be something to look at.
Anyway I have a LOT of research to do but it was great getting your prospectives.
Will let you know what I come up with.
Again my deepest appreciation for your responses.
Murphy

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 6:42AM
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teresa_nc7

I too have dreamed of a B&B/retreat in the mountains of NC! If we three pooled our resources, Beverly and Faye, we would probably be a big success! Ha! I actually looked into buying a B&B just before the last job change, but I did not have the money to follow through. It's still a dream though.

Teresa

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 10:02AM
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lockeb

I have dreamed and still dream about owning a quilt shop....I've wanted a Quilt Shop Cafe....a place where people could come and shop for all of their quilting needs..bu tstop and have coffee, tea, sweets, a light lunch.....of course it is still a dream..but who knows :-)..of course if you could have both of these attached to a B&B...well, what a trio...imagine the wonderful retreats......
OH, who wants to go into business with me.......I would need help with a green card though :-)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 9:32AM
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quiltpartner

Bill,

If I were 10yrs younger, I'd jump at this offer! We actually added coffee/teas/sweets to the shop at one point. So many great customers became friends, stayed half the day, including for cup of coffee or joined us for lunch - that it seemed a natural evolution. And now that I have 7 yrs experience under my belt...
BUT, I'm not 10yrs younger (darn!) & we don't exactly live around the corner from one another:( Maybe in our next life...!!
~Cindy

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 9:02PM
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rtaylor673

Just joining this forum... quiltpartner, when you say $25000 is a minimum capital to start, how many bolts of fabric do you think that could translate to? We are just starting research on opening a quilt shop/yarn shop, and aren't really aware what bolt costs are. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 4:08PM
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