Nessa Reifsnyder and her son Willis at stand in front of a quilt made by Maine quilter, Robin Zelonis.
The shop features fabrics with iconic images of Maine
On a rainy morning this past summer, Nessa Reifsnyder—co-owner of Fabricate, a cozy quilt shop housed in a 1930s-era erstwhile gas station in Bar Harbor, Maine—was busily preparing for the influx of customers that would soon descend upon her store.
Jazz music played softly in the background, a tribute to Nessa’s upbringing as the child of jazz musicians, and old family photos adorned the walls, adding to the comfortable ambiance. Nessa’s high-school-aged son, Willis, employed by his mother for the summer, was expertly folding fat-quarters of colorful fabric bedecked with lobsters, lighthouses, snowshoes, ducks, moose, canoes, fish, and other icons of the Pine Tree State. A quilt cruise ship would soon be docking in the harbor, and its passengers would be winding their way up the hill through the charming village to sample Nessa’s wares.
“We’re just a 500-bolt shop, but we’re the only place on the island to get thread,” said Nessa. “Although we have a faithful local clientele, we depend on vacationers to make ends meet.” For a small quilt store on an island, something like the arrival of a quilt cruise can have a big impact on the bottom line.
A quilt cruise doesn’t sail into the harbor everyday, however, and like most shop owners, Nessa is always looking to find other ways to attract customers. This was Fabricate’s first year to participate in a collective marketing strategy common to many independent quilt stores all across the United States: the quilt shop hop. From Washington to Maine and most places in between, the shop hop has become a dependable means of drawing customers into stores.
Over the past seven years, for example, quilt stores throughout the state of Maine have banded together to host a month-long shop-a-thon featuring prizes, logo charms, commemorative patterns, and special activities.
Shoppers are issued a “passport” listing all of the participating shops, and when a shop is visited, the passport is stamped. Rewards increase based on the number of shops visited, and a full passport earns one chance to win a grand prize.
Other states, regions, or cities with multiple quilt stores follow a similar blueprint. Some shop hops even produce original fabrics, or provide free patterns on a theme, with an option to purchase preassembled fabric kits for the pattern at each stop.
Other activities include scavenger hunts, door prizes, free fabrics, live music, and refreshments. In today’s economy, shop owners can use all the help they can get. And so can quilters, who are able to take advantage of special deals. Shop hops set up a win-win scenario.
“The shop hop was great for us,” said Nessa. “We were the furthest east participating shop in the state and we had over 300 visitors. It served to introduce us to Mainers who might not have otherwise known we were here.”
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