How to Make Quilting Your Business #4 – Owning a Physical Shop

Last week I blogged about running an online shop. Most of the examples I listed from the previous post can also apply to a physical shop. However, because I don’t have any experience running a brick and mortar shop, I recently interviewed Jennifer Albaugh, who along with her family, run Quiltique, my favorite local quilt shop. She generously agreed to share some of her wisdom and advice.

 

QuiltiqueIn this day and age, a majority of physical shops also have an online presence so they can stay connected with their customers. However, their focus is on their local clientele so they can offer something online stores can’t: physical interaction and live classes.

When Jennifer Albaugh and her family began Quiltique 11 years ago, online stores weren’t much of a presence, so they chose to focus on what they knew – running a brick and mortar retail business. In the coming year, they plan to expand their online presence and continue to offer top notch events that keep their customers coming back for more.

Jennifer Albaugh, Quiltique

Jennifer says that the key to running a successful quilt shop is creating a unique customer experience. Fun events, inspiring classes, and a welcoming environment are a must in today’s retail world. Says Jennifer, “You have to give customers a reason to walk through your door and then share the fun they had with their family and friends.”

Jennifer says she’s learned a few things along the way. Although she understood upfront that you really have to dig in and understand all aspects of a retail business, she soon realized that Quiltique’s biggest improvement over the years has been in customer service.

Jennifer states, “in the beginning, no one told us that retail is mostly a business of service and that you MUST focus on the customer and their needs with each and every person who walks in the door.”

Bernina Test Drive

Test driving my new Bernina 710 at Quiltique – a dream machine!

I know from personal experience that this is not just lip service. I bought my new Bernina from Quiltique last year because of their excellent customer service. Quiltique was also featured as a top shop in American Patchwork and Quilting’s Quilt Sampler, so you know they are doing many things right!

Jennifer further emphasizes that when running a business, “creative types” should be able to manage many of the business-type things like dealing with money, and they need to realize it’s not all about the pursuit of their craft. In fact, the more successful your business is, the less likely you’ll have time to sew and quilt, so be sure to keep that in mind as you build the store of your dreams.

The biggest surprise that Jennifer has discovered is the personal fulfillment she gets from going to work each day. Jennifer explains, “When your customers come to your shop to share with you their joys, personal accomplishments, and even failures and heartaches, it is like you have one HUGE family. After 11 years in business, I still enjoy coming to work every day and creating that unique experience for our customers. I love the sharing and camaraderie we get back in return.”

Quiltique

Thank you, Jennifer for sharing your experiences. And thank you readers, for following along so far. One last thing I would add if you are contemplating opening up a store is to visit as many of them as you can. Take notes on what you like or what you’d change. Don’t give up on the pursuit of your quilting dreams, no matter how big they may seem. Work on making your goals a reality, one day at a time!

Click here for the start of this series.

10 thoughts on “How to Make Quilting Your Business #4 – Owning a Physical Shop

  1. Amy says:

    FYI- Quiltique has the best online shop tour I have ever seen! The above commentors are correct, if a real shop doesn’t give you a friendly and inspirational experience, there are too many options for online shopping to put up with poor brick and mortars.

  2. Lori M says:

    Friendliness at a quilt shop is super important! Especially since just about anything is available on the internet. Also we do a lot of travelling and I’ve been to many shops. If the people are friendly I am very inclined to spend a considerable amount of money there. If not friendly, I usually leave without buying anything, even if I need something. There are so many options these days for purchasing what you need. One fun (and smart!) thing my LQS started is monthly “quilt clubs” like one for modern quilts, one for civil war, one for EQ users, etc. That has attracted quite a few quilters and brings business in for the shop.

  3. Denise says:

    Everything Jennifer said is SO true. My LQS is very non-friendly. She holds what she calls “classes” but unless you actually go into the shop at the right time you never find out about the “classes.” It appears only a few people ever know when these “classes” will be held, even though I have left my email address several times and asked to be notified. She doesn’t even list these “classes” on her website. I happened by one day when she was putting up info about a “class,” so I signed up. Basically what the “class” turned out to be was a few women who all know each other getting together to cut out fabric and gossip. That was it. Foolish me actually brought my sewing machine because I thought we were going to make a table topper. I am very disappointed in this shop and since I live pretty far out in the country there aren’t any other options. Thank you for the informative article on how a shop should be run.

  4. brigitdermott says:

    I just discovered your blog and couldn’t have been happier to find this post! My dream is to open a fiber arts shop and this advice is perfect. I moved to Gainesville FL from New York and really miss the personal connection of going to a brick and mortar craft shop–not to mention seeing fabrics in person. It’s encouraging to read about a successful and satisfying business venture!

  5. Alison Hingston, Melbourne, Australia says:

    My daughter and I were lucky enough to visit Quiltique when we were on vacation in the USA last November. Las Vegas was our last stop before returning to Australia so we did a quilt tour. I love Quiltique and wish it was my LQS! Service, range of fabrics. Presentation, specials, notions and threads were all first class. Needless to sat we bought quite a bit to ship back home.

  6. dtavareslv says:

    Hi Christa. I’m fairly new to quilting and am enjoying your daily emails. I also follow u on Facebook. Today u posted pics of what looked like a really cute Valentine mug rug. Is there a pattern somewhere that I’ve missed? Thank u so much for what u do. Sincerely, Doreen Tavares

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