Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Montana Jane Quinn
Montana Main Street
The city of Bozeman is located in the southwestern part of the state of
Montana. Situated in a valley surrounded by spectacular mountain
ranges, it is some 90 miles to the north of Yellowstone National
2010 census put its population at a little over 37,000 people, and
yet there are seven
dedicated quilt shops within a 30-mile radius. By way of size
contrast, the city of Austin, Texas, has a population of 821,000,
covers 271 square miles, and has six dedicated quilt shops.
is it that so many quilt shops are able to thrive in such a
relatively small area with a low population? I decided to talk to
several Bozeman shop owners and area quilters to find out their
opinions on the question.
Carter owns Main
Street Quilting Company,
a large full-service shop housed in a beautifully restored
storefront in Bozeman’s historic city center. She specializes
in batiks, prints with Western, outdoors, and wildlife themes, and
the area Bernina dealership is also located in the store.
think there are a number of reasons why we’ve all been
successful,” she says. “For one thing, each shop is
unique. We each have our own niche, but we all support one another.
For example, at our shop we feature a lot of fabrics that represent
Montana, so quilters who want to make a Western quilt can find what
they’re looking for here. If someone is looking for
reproduction fabrics, I’ll send them over to Margo.”
referring to Margo Krager, who owns ReproductionFabrics.com.
One of the “pioneer” shop owners in town, Margo has been
in the business for over 20 years, having moved locations several
times. Specializing in reproduction fabrics, her business has evolved
into 90% web-based mail orders, so she now operates out of an office
suite away from downtown.
sells and ships fabric all over the globe, and while quilters are her
“bread-and-butter,” she also provides material to opera
companies, living history museums, war re-enactor groups, the film
and television industries, and interior decorators. Margo has a
different take on the healthy market for quilt shops in Bozeman.
tourist stream here is simply amazing, and a lot of the tourists are
quilters. When quilters come to town, they can smell fabric from a
mile away,” she laughs. “We have three tourist seasons:
winter for skiers, summer for Yellowstone Park, fishing, hiking, and
so on, and finally, hunting season. I can’t tell you how many
husbands I’ve had come in and tell me something along the lines
of, ‘My wife let me go hunting if I promised to bring her back
$100-worth of fabric.’”
in the Country
is located just outside of Bozeman in several restored buildings on
Jane’s converted 1889s farmstead. Surrounded by lush gardens
and the mountains in the background, it would be hard to imagine a
more delightful setting for creative inspiration.
that is exactly the niche that Jane’s shop fills. A beloved and
renowned teacher, Jane’s specialty is instruction, whether in
the form of classes or workshops; quilting retreats at a working
ranch in the nearby Bridger Mountains; or her annual outdoor quilt
show that attracts thousands of visitors.
two quilters are alike and no two shops are alike. There’s such
a variety here that quilters who come to Bozeman can usually find
what they’re looking for,” comments Cathy Decker, who
works with Quinn. “At our shop, people come to be inspired by
the gardens, the outdoors, and our country-friendly environment.”
Flynn, who works with Lisa at Main Street Quilting Company, adds her
perspective: “I think it’s because there are so many
artistic quilters here in the valley. We have a large number of art
quilters as well as a large number of traditional quilters. Our
customer base is just really creative. Plus, the winters here are
long and cold and it’s not easy to get out. When the days are
gray and the ground is white, we quilters miss color. We garden with
fabrics in the winter.”
viewpoint is borne out by Chris Montgomery, a Montana quilter who
spends summers in the remote Centennial Valley preparing gourmet
meals for Valley visitors while her husband works as an outfitter and
guide. The couple spends winters in the community of Lima, where she
works as a Special Education teacher.
her summer work is so intense and demanding, Montgomery has to wait
until the days get shorter and the cold and snow set in before she
has time for quilting. She and her quilting friends, all of whom have
similar seasonal work demands, are customers of the quilt shops in
we don’t sew in the summer, we have a lot of pent-up creativity
just waiting to get out in the winter,” she says. “We get
together and quilt every week until calving season starts. Because
our winters are so long and dark, we use the different colors in
fabrics to brighten our days. It gives us so much joy!”
would appear that Bozeman is strategically located to take advantage
of a variety of quilting demands and desires, despite its small size.
The quilt shops of Bozeman are proof positive that a vibrant and
varied community create a vibrant and varied market.
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