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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Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here