Tuesday, March 16, 2010
the story of JEllen's house of fabric
In our 1997 family holiday newsletter, I wrote about the need for my husband's medical billing business to move out of our house. My task while I was on maternity leave with our third child, was to find a space to move into. We sat down with our staff of four at the time and came up with a list of desires for the new space: five minutes from home, a Mayfield Road address, one large room versus small offices, a casual atmosphere, a private bathroom, a spare room with a tv and couch for when our kids are sick, a place for a microwave and refrigerator, adequate parking and 24/7 access. I thought this could be a difficult task. Yet, here is what I wrote in that newsletter...
"Two days later on a quick mail run to the post office, I observe a "for rent" sign in the 2nd floor window of a former house turned commercial property. A quick stop determines that the space is absolutely perfect. The building has recently had an addition put on and major renovations that have it designed exactly to our desire. It also has a charming retail space on the first floor that Joyce immediately visions as "Fabulous Fabriques of Lyndhurst" someday. It currently is a bridal boutique. The best part, the rent is very reasonable. It is at this moment that I know John and I have made the right decision. This space is just to perfect for there not to be a higher power guiding our lives."
And so for the next decade, my husband and I juggled his medical billing business, my not-for-profit career, and the care of our three children. Our daughter was often very ill and frequently had extended stays in the hospital. My dream of owning a fabric store was pushed down to barely a fragment of a thought.
In February of 2009, I left my career to care for Sarah who had once again become critically ill. When doctors suggested it was time for hospice care, I knew I had to be home with her. By September of that year, her health was improving, and I was beginning to wonder what my future held. I pondered and prayed for guidance.
Then on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the building owner approached us about taking over her space. She had decided it was time to retire from the bridal business. I am usually a careful planner, I even have an advanced degree in strategic planning, yet I immediately blurted out the word "yes." Then I felt the need to explain that I did not want the space for our existing business, but rather to fulfill my dream of having a fabric and quilt store. A place for fun and friendship. A gathering spot for creativity. And so, nearly twelve years after my initial dream, I began to research, plan and prepare.
In my process of gathering new fabrics, something truly magical happened. Something I had never envisioned, nor anticipated...my then twenty year old daughter with Down syndrome took an interest in what I was doing. She loved handling and arranging the fabrics. I posted a picture of her doing so on my creative blog and somehow Kate Spain saw it. Kate emailed and asked to send Sarah a package. When it arrived, Sarah was excited beyond words. As she began to open it, I realized it was Verna, one of the most anticipated fabric lines from Moda since quilt market in October. In Kate's note to Sarah she wrote..."enclosed is a little love (in the form of fabric) from my heart to yours. Here's hoping your love for quilting grows and blooms like all the flowers in spring."
When I read that last sentence, it felt like I was touched by an angel. My worries and insecurities of opening a business during a difficult economic climate, were replaced with hope and determination. Then Kate posted a story about us on her blog. As I read the comments from readers, it hit me that this project needed to include Sarah and her friends. It needed to be a place where we embrace young woman who oftentimes have a challenge finding a place to hang out and be creative, but more importantly an employer willing to give them a place to feel productive.
Once comfortable with the concept of being that employer, I wondered if I truly could teach Sarah to sew. So I searched through magazines and catalogs to find something that might interest her, yet would be easy to sew. The idea of pillowcases emerged. I googled "pillowcase" and stumbled upon a awesome project: the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. When I showed it to Sarah the next day, she loved it. Then as I read the description of the project to her and got to the word "cancer" she immediately thought of her blogging friend Kristen. They next day we went in search of Disney Princess fabric because that is Kristen's favorite.
As Sarah and I stood side-by-side, cutting and stitching and pressing, I felt like we were being given a gift greater than anything I had ever experienced. The day we saw the picture of Kristen with her pillow, I sat at my computer and cried. The feelings were simply overwhelming. To think how many people were involved in bringing this venture together is beyond my comprehension. I believe it is only thru His mysterious ways that my dream is coming true, yet on a level so much greater than I could ever have imagined.
Shortly after posting the final pictures of our pillow story, there was a message from someone new on Sarah's blog. I'm used to new visitors there as Sarah gets several hundred hits a day on her blog, but this visitor left her name: Jennifer Keltner. If you're not familiar, she just happens to be the Executive Editor of Better Homes and Garden's American Patchwork & Quilting who issued the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. Once again, I was simply overwhelmed.
A few weeks later as I was driving back from my first wholesale show where I had the pleaure of meeting two of the nicest men from Moda, I could not help but think that yes, His ways may be mysterious, but they are speaking to me loud and clear. We are so blessed.
Stay tuned for our grand opening celebration planned for August 9, 2010, which also cleverly happens to be Sarah's 21st birthday.