My dyeing buddies and I hit the roads of northeast Ohio recently to seek out quilting enlightenment and embellishments. With the help of a GPS we managed to stay on course except for one around the block trip. In the course of visiting five quilt shops we found we had inadvertently crashed the Charming Quilt Shop Tour. Each time we walked into a store we were asked if we were doing the tour. Well, no, as it cost $2 to participate, and after all I could buy two yards of ribbon with that. Of course I wasn’t eligible for any of the drawings, but given my luck with such things it was a safe bet I wouldn’t have won anything even if I had paid my $2.
Four of the five shops carried mostly traditional quilting fabric. One, Olive Grace, which bills itself as an eccentric quilt shop, carries all sorts of contemporary and modern fabric lines plus coordinating embellishments. Another, Quilter’s Fancy, has lots of ribbons, trims, buttons, and beads; and offers several hand embellishing classes. My travel buds signed up for one of these.
I was intrigued that a smallish Ohio town, Cortland (population about 6800 in 2000), had three quilt shops. My assumption that it was a well-to-do town with lots of quilters in possession of discretionary income was totally unfounded. Frankly, the place really needs paint stores more than quilt shops. Its big attraction for non quilters seems to be Mosquito Lake.
We didn’t explore the lake as the closest we got to fishing was the angler fabric I bought. However, we did check out a local eatery – the 4 Star Diner on North Mecca Street. This place has been recently renovated, and offers 10% off the bill for seniors. We ordered off the daily specials list. My beer batter fried cod sandwich was good. I think my trip mates were pleased with their meals as well.
This trip triggered some reflection on the state of independent quilt shops in this internet shopping age. Frankly, I was amazed that some of the stores we visited were still in business. My gut feeling is that a successful store needs to offer some combination of the following: great prices, unique merchandise, fabulous classes, extremely knowledgeable staff. or extra services. When I see the staff hand writing my bill I can’t help but wonder if that store will be open in a year. I can but hope.