Thursday, September 13, 2007

Service please...

Ok, so it should be no surprise to anyone who has read my blog for long that I love to go shopping for quilt fabric. Really. I do. And it's not just fabrics. Oh no. I love patterns too. And gadgets and notions. Oh, and fabrics. Have I mentioned I love fabrics? Yeah. Given my addiction to quilt shops and their wares, you would think there isn't a quilt shop I don't love or at least appreciate. Well -- I finally found one that on the surface I should be absolutely crazy about, but I'm not.

Now, don't get me wrong. Not every quilt shop is for every quilter. They all have personalities. Some specialize in civil war repros. Others in modern quilt fabrics. Still others in brights and novelties. No shop can carry EVERYTHING, and they shouldn't have to. That's the beauty of this whole quilting thing -- different fabrics for every type of quilter. I accept and embrace that notion. I have been in some shops where I'm not going to find a lot simply because those particular fabrics don't sing to me -- they don't shout at me "Come play with me" or "I want you to take me home". That's cool. Even in shops where I'm not in love with the fabrics I usually find SOMETHING -- a notion, a poor, lonely little orphaned fat quarter that doesn't really belong, thread, needles, SOMETHING. At the very least, I usually find someone willing to chat with, a friendly smile and a hail fellow well met to another quilter -- even if we have very different styles.

And in some shops, you just go WOW -- like a kid in a candy store. The personalities of the fabrics just mesh with your own. All of your favorite designers in one place. Fabrics and colors that sing to you so loudly you almost need earplugs just so you can concentrate on what you want to buy first. You know -- the shop where if money was no object you would take at least a yard off of almost every single bolt. And some of them, you'd take a bolt.

Most shops are a combination of the two extremes. A section or two (ok, or three or four) you love. Some fabrics that you don't -- but that's cool, someone else will. Patterns and ideas -- some you like, some you don't. But usually, usually someone who is friendly and willing to chat. A fellow quilter. And as most of you know, quilters are some of the BEST people!

So why am I waxing poetic about the types of quilt shops and their personalities? Well, I was feeling the need for some fabric therapy the other day. In the midst of my cleaning spree I ran across some old memories that had me feeling a bit blue. They weren't awful -- just the sorts of things that can make you nostalgic and a bit sad. Ones that remind you of losses you would rather not have -- and that you can't do a darned thing about it. I decided it was much to beautiful a day to be in that kind of funk (that is best of rainy cold days when you can have a fit of the blues, NOT for days when the sun is shining in a beautiful blue fall sky and the weather is behaving for a change). Perfect antidote? A drive in the country with the end destination a new to me quilt shop.

As an added bonus, the shop in question had an ad in my newest guild newsletter -- and it prominently mentioned that they carried the new Joel Dewberry line and, more importantly to me, the luscious Chocolate Lollipop fabrics by Anna Maria Horner. (These fabrics are simply delicious folks -- fun, bright, with a twist of serious sophistication -- if you want to see some lovely examples check out Anna Maria's blog -- actually, if you want to be wowed by a seriously talented designer who is also a fantastic Mom -- check out her blog. How she does it all I do NOT know) I've been wanting some of these fabrics for ages -- but, well, I wanted to see them in person. I know, I can order them on the internet - but, well, I like feeling the fabrics and seeing them in person. I also like buying from local small quilt shop owners when possible. I know I can get things less expensively online -- but, well, I like HAVING local small quilt shops around, so -- that means spending money there! So, bonus -- a localish (most shops are at least a 30 minute plus drive for me) that is carrying fabrics that NO ONE else in the area is carrying. WOOO HOOO!!!!

My excitement lasted until I actually got to the shop. I walked up to the only obvious door from the side parking lot and the woman who was loading fabrics into a truck treated me to a weird reception. I was friendly and asked if this was the entrance -- obviously I've never been there before -- and was told that it was the BACK entrance, but I could go in if I wanted to. Um, yeah, that's why I'm here! But, ok, busy lady -- looked like she was getting ready to go vend at a quilt show (and since there's a major show in Madison, WI this weekend -- not too surprising). She actually had to unlock the door to let me in -- which is lovely since it was marked as the handicapped entrance, but, well --

Anyway, one of the first things I did was say I had heard about them from my guild newsletter and I came out specifically for the Chocolate Lollipop fabrics. Turns out she had just put all of them in the truck. Great. Ok, I can come back. It's not that far from my house (35 minute drive or so). And then I was told they would be back on Tuesday -- if they didn't sell out at the show. Um, ok, gee -- thanks. Now, did I expect her to unload the fabrics she was packing for the show so I could buy some? No. Not really. Though, I did think I could have been asked if I knew what I wanted (I did) and if so maybe I could get the 1 or 2 (ok, this is me 3 or 4) fabrics I wanted. I probably would have said not to bother -- but still. I did have the other person working there point out that there was a FQ bundle there in the shop (just about the ONLY Chocolate Lollipop left there btw). The problem being the ideas I have for the fabrics all involve at least 1/2 a yard of fabric if not more. FQs aren't going to cut it.

Ok, not a problem. This is a quilt shop after all. Even if I can't get my chocolate fix -- there ARE other fabrics after all. And let me tell you -- this shop has some lovely fabrics. Shelves full of Kaffe Fassetts. Really. Current prints, some older ones, stripes, shot cottons, etc. More Kaffes than I've seen in a single place outside of a major quilt show. Full lines of most of their fabrics. And, the Joel Dewbery fabrics. I should have been in heaven! But, well, after showing me where the Aviary fabrics were -- the sales person spent her time, um, following me around the store. Now, you've seen photos of me (well, kind of) -- do I LOOK like I'm a thief? But every time I reached out to pick up a pattern she was staring at me and using body language that indicated I wasn't supposed to DO THAT. A notion, same thing. And she made sure I could see her watching me as I was walking through the bolts of fabric (come on -- they sure as heck aren't going to fit in my purse. I carry a really small purse too.). Now, I suppose it could have been meant as being friendly -- but, um, I'm really not too sure of that. For it to be friendly -- a conversation would have been nice. Chit chat. Ask about quilting? Um, I am in a quilt shop after all. I did mention that I belong to a guild. Nope -- just staring at me and making me feel like picking up a pattern to examine it was a crime. It gave me the heebie jeebies. As a matter of fact, despite the fact that there were beautiful fabrics that I really would LOVE to play with there, the entire store gave me the heebie jeebies. (and we won't even mention the prices -- not just full price, but full urban center pricing which for the area where this shop is located? Um, let's just say it's high. I know fabric prices have gone up -- but, ya know, there is such a thing as being priced out of your market)

Does this mean I didn't buy anything? Oh, yeah, right. Like that's gonna happen. I did get a couple of things. Some of the Joel Dewberry Aviary fabrics, I think these are going to be a bag of some sort -- not sure what kind yet.





And I did get some Kaffe shot cottons -- these I think are destined to go into a little Halloween wall hanging. Though, I need to find some purple to go with them. Maybe something with a pattern as well, but I love the way these feel.




And just so I didn't feel totally chocolate deprived, I got the only piece of Chocolate Lollipop in the store other than the $60.00 FQ bundle (um, I really wasn't planning on spending that much folks -- the other reason the bundle didn't come home with me). It is an off cut fat eighth. Which means it isn't even a full fat eighth. But darn it, I got some of the fabric I went for! Not enough to do much with it -- but some.


I will say the sales person (not sure of what else to call her) did warm up a bit towards the end and help me find this little fat eighth and chat while cutting -- but still didn't make me feel much better after being watched so intensely while I was shopping.

And to get the bad taste from the shop out of my mouth (so to speak) -- I headed off to one of my favorite quilt shops in that area. Their selection of "modern" fabrics is pretty much one or two lines -- and then mostly brights/novelties. They have a great selection of batiks and flannels for kids (adults too for that matter). They have a wall 'o plaids for those of you who love 'em. No Amy Butler. No Joel Dewberry. No Anna Maria Horner. No Heather Bailey. No Kaffe Fassett -- and that's ok. Because what they do have, is the service that was missing in the other shop (and no, I'm not going to name that one).

It's not really fair to compare my reception at the two shops. I've been going to my fav for years now. When I walked in the door I was greeted with "Hi Angela!" by both owners (who were also getting ready to vend at the Madison Quilt Expo btw). Followed quickly by "Where's ------ (insert dd's name)?" I chatted with Stephanie (one of the owners) about her youngest daughter (who is adorable and was running around the shop "helping" Mom -- and is all of a month younger than my own dd) and mine and about quilting in general. She helped me look for a thimble for my newly developed interest in handwork (darn you Tonya and Rose Marie and all of you other talented hand quilters, embroiderers, and appliquers out there). When I mentioned I wanted a color of a line they are carrying but they didn't have -- she took down my name and said she'd call when the bolt came into the store. This even though I told her what I wanted it for -- and I'm only going to buy a yard or two (and since she is ordering it for me -- I'll probably buy more than I need). Nope -- they may not have all of the "cutting edge" fabrics -- but what they do have, is good, friendly service. The kind you come back for. The kind you drive for 40 minutes for even with the price of gas going up again. The kind you look for in a quilt shop -- or at least I do.

And of course, I didn't walk out empty handed. Some lovely denim blue solid -- it may be a skirt. It may be a project I'm thinking of -- but haven't decided on yet. Some may get combined with the Kaffe shots for that Halloween quilt. And a cutie pie pattern for a jacket for dd -- who is crazy for jackets, shoes and hats. My little accessory queen. Did I NEED either of these purchases? Nope -- but that's ok, I did need to buy locally (sort of) and feel good about it. I'll be going back there -- again and again. Even if I can get fabrics I want for less online -- if they carry it, I'll buy it from them. Because service is important. And so is supporting the local quilt shop owners who go the extra mile.

As for the Chocolate Lollipop fabrics I want, and that other shop. Well -- hmmn, the cost of gas to drive 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back -- well, that's just about the cost of shipping if not MORE than the cost of shipping. Z&S -- here I come. Less expensive, less of a hassle, and no heebie jeebies!

22 comments:

Sew Unique Creations said...

What a shame you had such a disappointing experience in a quilt shop! It drives me crazy to go into a shop and feel not welcomed! I've been to a ton of quilt shops all over the USA and I'm said to say that I've experienced some of the same things you did. I wish all shops would remember that without us, they would not be in business. I hope your quilt shop hopping experiences get better in the future! Glad to see you did find some goodies though!

Karyn said...

LOL!!!! "do I look like a thief???"

That is unfortunate that the store wasn't all you had hoped for. There are only TWO quilt shops near me, one in Canada (a huge disappointment) and one in the US (I've only been there once and wasn't terribly impressed). I have to buy any fancy fabrics online.

You did get some great fabrics! Have fun playing with them!!!

Felicia said...

That stinks that it was such a disappointment. Enjoy the handful of treasures you brought home.

Allison Ann Aller said...

I sure would love to see a photo of your stash...it must be spectacular!

I wonder how long that heebie jeebie shop will be able to stay in business....

Bren said...

That stinks! I have never had that bad of an experience in a quilt shop, though I have been ignored in one, I never felt the heebie jeebies..I wonder if I was ignored in the one you are talking about..since we live in the same area, you need to share that info with me.

Linda said...

Nice to see that your unfortunate shopping venture turned itself around into a pleasant shopping trip at a store that welcomed you. Customer service is so important today, especially as it's so easy for us to shop with the click of a mouse.

Laurie Ann said...

Yeah, not every shop is for everybody! I live near the Buggy Barn and I just hate it. Know why? Because they have a loose dog that will jump on your car if you bring your own dogs in your own car and they have about ten signs saying "no dog allowed in your car on the property," which just totally pisses me off since they are supposedly a place of business. Which of course I didn't know the first time I took a drive with my dog out to the country to visit their shop.

Fiona said...

Some shops are like that. There aren't that many quilt shops near me anyway, but I have to say that I love shopping online from the USA - even though I can't see and feel the fabrics, the customer service has always been excellent so far, whichever shop I've used. Sadly, when I recently ordered online from a well-known UK quilting store it took longer for the items to reach me than they do from the US - they don't even pack them until 3 days after they receive the order.

Lisa D. said...

Wow, it gives me the Heebie Jeebies just reading about your experience. I'm surprised you bothered to buy something, but I also understand the need for a fix. Maybe they were just frazzled because of the show, but still. A real live customer should have been treated with warmth and respect!

Samantha said...

There's nothing worse that a clique-ish, weird, unfriendly LQS. I have a local one that stocks the best batik selection ever, but they have a horrible little dog that jumps all over you when you shop. And they also act burdened when you ask them to cut fabric... I only go there when I need something super specific.

A local store should be welcoming and friendly and encourage touching. After all, I can go online and buy cheaper without touching...

paula, the quilter said...

At my LQS you need to be careful what you say. One of the owners takes a simple inquiry "do you have some of ________?" into an order and the next thing you know, there's a phone call telling you it has arrived. Of course, I feel like I need to purchase the item even tho I didn't really order it. This has happened to me several times so I am very careful and just say I came in to see what's new! LOL!

tammy said...

Hi Angela! Wow! Can you even believe someone is in business when they treat customers like that! Oh my goodness! Just so you know, if you don't already we just got in a couple of lines you are going to love, and the entire line of Chocolate Lollipops should be arriving in the next couple of weeks. Got some more great fabrics coming that you are going to love too.

See ya soon!
Tammy

Tracey @ozcountryquiltingmum said...

Hmmmm, you are the one who wrote all the glowing reports when I did my LQS critique,-you are too spoilt by good service! Why do they do this do you think...is a mystery buyer at a quilt show worth more than a local...I wouldn't have thought so, hope they came back with all of it! Tracey

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

mwah ha ha ha, you WILL hand quilt, you will hand quilt.

YankeeQuilter said...

When I lived in Maryland going to my LQS was almost like therapy...I really miss it. Amazing that some shops don't understand that if you are comfortable in a store then you will stay longer and if you stay longer then you will spend more! (fairly simple economic model no?!)

Greenmare said...

oh man, what crummy shop people!
so, if you are ever north of Madison, come see me and I'll take you to four wonderful local quilt shops!

Finn said...

Hi Angela, holy cow! I think maybe we bloggers SHOULD start a list of Quilters 'Most Wanted(meaning where the fun in)' and 'Notoriously UnWanted' quilt shops for just those reasons you have listed. You are are so totally right on with how it makes you feel.
Someimes I'd like to say 'hey, I'm the customer', I'm the one who pays to keep the door opening with new fabric and keeps the light on'...hate those places where they make(or try to make)me feel like they are doing ME a favor.
We've got the POWER..right in our little bitsy purses..plastic and paper power! I think I'd be tempted to ask as your guild meeting how other peoples experiences were at that shop.
About the cleaning bit...so sorry that along with the removing of dust other things come 'up' too. But they are valid feelings, and I've been experiencing the same kind of stuff...regrets? I guess that's a good word for them..was being to think it was just me..or maybe the changing of the seasons here in the midwest. Anyhow or way, I'm sending extra big hugs your way, Finn *VBS* (((HUGS)))

The Calico Cat said...

UGH...

Nicole said...

This was a great post Angela. I love the feeling of being there with you! Don't you also just appreciate the "Cheers" type greeting that you get at your favorite quilt shop?

Patti said...

How very sad for you - and for the shop. Was this a new shop? If so, then I predict it won't be in business long. If it's a "seasoned" shop then there is certainly no excuse.

There are a couple shops around here where it's obvious that some customers are greeted and treated much more warmly than others. Not a problem for me - I stopped going to those shops. If someone asks why I don't hesitate to tell them.

kristin L said...

This is a great essay on quilt stores. The importance of customer service is obvious -- and it's the one thing, besides actually touching fabric, that will keep real life customers coming to one's real life store rather than shopping online. I commend your desire to support local business and I think you've done a great job explaining how and why that should happen.

Valerie said...

great picks !!
I love the same ones !!!
I just received a mix of the Joel dewberry aviary, those in the brown and orange colors. I want to make seasonal/Fall pillows for our 2 couches.
And now I can't wait to see what you're going to make with yours !!!
I love this post !