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Column #81

Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?

Montana Jane Quinn
Montana Jane Quinn

Montana Main Street
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 Park.

The 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.

How 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.

Lisa Carter owns Main Street Quilting Company, a large full-service shop housed in a beautifully restored 19th-century 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.

“I 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.”

She’s 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.

She 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.

“The 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.’”

Jane Quinn’s Quilting 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.

And 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.

“No 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.”

Linda 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.”

Flynn’s 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.

Because 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 Bozeman.

“Because 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!”

It 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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Archived blogs:

Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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