‘Quilt hoppers’ visit Perham by the busload
Have you noticed the extra buses in town this month?
Many of them were carrying a unique type of tourist – quilters.
This August marked the 7th annual Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop, an event that offers quilters from across the United States and Canada the opportunity to be inspired by visiting 76 of Minnesota’s finest quilt shops.
Each year, Quilt Minnesota features an exclusive fabric line with a “Minnesota feel.” Every independent quilt shop creates and designs projects using these unique shop hop fabrics.
This year’s fabric collection had a Minnesota State Park theme that featured the colors and critters of the state’s fabled lakes and woodlands.
Bay Window Quilts of Perham is the second largest quilt shop in the state of Minnesota, and a popular destination on the quilt hop. This last month, the shop saw at least 50 quilt hoppers a day, in addition to its regular customers.
Sarah Hayden is the owner and manager of Bay Window Quilts, a shop which began nearly 25 years ago as an arts and crafts store. Over the years it has evolved into what she likes to call a creative sewing center. Customers can get anything they need for a sewing project in the store, not just quilting supplies. That progress was customer-driven, said Hayden.
“If people asked for something three times, I made sure that the next time I had it in the store,” she said.
Her goal was to be a one-stop shop. And as her shop has grown, so has the interest in quilting.
“When I started out, we had 100 bolts of fabric,” she said. “Now, there are nearly 4,000.”
The shop employs a number of part-time people, but Hayden’s daughter, Katie, is the only full-timer. A fabric designer in her own right, Katie has had two lines of fabric published, with a third on the way. A line includes 20 or more coordinating fabric designs.
She also designs quilting patterns to go with the fabrics. Features like these give the Bay Window Quilt Shop a competitive edge. Katie also manages the website and online store, where customers can purchase both fabric and patterns. Her mother said it’s like having another month of sales each year.
Hayden is still interested in learning how to make the business better. She and her daughter attend classes at the International Quilt Market to learn about topics like traffic flow. Fabrics in the store have no more than a one year shelf life, so the store always looks fresh.
“Some of the newer fabrics are a little edgy,” she said. “We have fabrics that no one else has.”
They also provide services that no one else does, like keeping customers’ punch cards on file and hosting a variety of events during the year. Several quilting clubs meet there regularly.
Over the years, the shop has expanded physically and now includes another entrance on Main Street. But the location is still in the Bauck Building and the core values of the business remain the same.
“We want to make sure that every customer has an enjoyable experience that turns into a creative one,” said Hayden.
Lina Belar, For the Focus