Last weekend I went shopping for some fabric. This isn’t something I do very often, because I’m fortunate to pick up fabric from our fabric grabs here at work. Mary Kate describes the fabric grab process in detail in one of her earlier blogs. I’ve been leaning towards scrappy quilts lately, so the more fabrics the merrier! However, sometimes I crave more yardage, to go with some of the bits I’ve picked up. The trick is to find what I’m looking for in the local shops. Of course I can always go on-line–and have been known to–but for me, it’s the thrill of the hunt, the tactile experience, the instant gratification of walking out, fabric in hand. We’re fortunate here in the Denver metro area, there are approximately 10 quilt shops within a 30 mile radius. Every shop has it’s own personality–as I’m sure your local quilt shops do. The trick is to go to the right shop, in the hopes that they’ll have what you’re looking for.
There are a couple of shops I frequent. One shop almost always has what I’ m looking for–offering a wide variety of fabrics. It’s in a good location with plenty of parking and they have good sale prices. The reason I love the second shop isn’t so easy to define. The fabric selection is decent but not extensive, and the focus of the shop is reproductions which is not my thing. So why do I love it? After some thought I realized that the real reason is the ladies who work in the shop. They are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. They know my name, even if I haven’t shown my face in months. They’re willing to offer tactful advice about what fabrics and colors might go best with what I already have and if I only want an 1/8th of a yard they’ll tear it for me. I feel like one of the cool kids when I’m there–part of the club, understood, as if I can’t fail, that all my decisions are the right ones for me.
That’s a valuable asset in today’s retail economy and one that’s not easy to find. For example, another quilt shop in town appears–on the surface–to have everything going for it. A bright, well-lit store, HUGE fabric selection, a variety of classes, close to home, and open on Sundays. Unfortunately, as one of my friend’s says, “You could lose a limb in there and no one would help you pick it up!” You’ve probably already guessed, but I rarely ever go in.
Great service is important to me. And I don’t think I’m alone. Our most recent Quilting in America study (2010) found that a whopping 86% of quilters considered “friendly store personnel” the most important characteristic for a store. Of course 84% thought that “offers a wide variety of fabrics” was the second most important but that is totally understandable.
After all, we’re quilters, not fools.