Thursday, June 24, 2010

Growing pains

Thanks to the internet, visitors from all over the globe make their way daily to Homestead Hearth. And sometimes our cyber friends even find their way to our brick and mortar store here in small town America.

This past week we enjoyed meeting Penny, staffer at Suzy’s Quilt Shop in Garland, Texas. Penny was making her annual pilgrimage to muggy Missouri to visit her dad for Father’s Day. Thankfully she also managed to squeeze in a bit of time for us. It was great seeing you and safe travels, Penny!

If you’re ever in the area we’d love to meet you face-to-face. We’re easy to find--just look for the building with the jeep over the door. The flock of flamingos from the back seat has flown the coop, but you’ll still recognize our store front. Some days you might get to meet Harvey, our unofficial mascot:

Our building was last used as a restaurant, and that owner was into recycling long before being “green” was in style. As you stroll through our store you’ll see:

chunks of airplanes,

walls made of old doors, a variety of floor tiles,

an old bathtub

and yellow duck prints leading straight to the restrooms.

Of course we also have hundreds of patterns, 1,000s of fabric bolts, a variety of notions, and a J.C. Penney catalog outlet desk.

Lori’s Penney catalog business (right inside the front door) always gets a second look from our quilt shop customers. Her catalog business represents the resources of a company with over 1,000 stores and 150,000 associates. The J.C. Penney distribution centers are spread throughout the nation and offer an inventory of millions of items. In comparison, our sole location serves all of the retail, wholesale, and internet needs of our worldwide customers.

Our staff of less than ten employees stays busy cutting kits, taking orders, packaging, and shipping. They answer phone calls, pull orders, bundle fat quarters, and give stitching advice over the phone and in person. Despite our small number of staff members, life at the shop was going pretty smoothly. Then came your overwhelming response to the Civil War Tribute block of the month (BOM) program.

Partnering with Judie Rothermel and Marcus Brothers to present this BOM project was a dream come true. We worked for months preparing ourselves for the changes and challenges we knew would come. What we hadn’t foreseen was the exponential enthusiasm for the project—and the growing pains such rapid growth would mean.

It didn’t take us long to realize that our original printing arrangements weren’t going to be adequate for the increasing requests from our customers. The search for a reliable printer with appropriate capacity led us to a town 45 miles from the shop, and soon we were taking turns making the drive to shuttle boxes and boxes and boxes of patterns from the printing facility to our store. Then came a series of unexpected delays.

First the printing machinery broke and a part had to be ordered from out of state. Next the weather didn’t cooperate as schools and businesses across the region were closed due to blizzard conditions. Then our building flooded.

Pipes in an unused area on an upper floor separated and doused the ground floor with several inches of water. The inventory of patterns wasn’t damaged, but we were too busy rescuing bolts of fabric, mopping floors, and removing water with shop vacs to get any orders shipped out for a while. It was definitely a series of events that led to the point where you just had to laugh so you didn't sit down and cry.

Once the printing was back under control the multitude of questions began. As more shops stitched their shop samples and more customers began their own versions, we were inundated with questions. Questions about yardages. Questions about instructions. Questions about hints for easier sewing. Questions about readability of diagrams. As each concern was shared we worked to find ways to respond.

Pattern updates were posted on our home page. Diagrams were changed from gray scale to patterned backgrounds. An alternate block was offered for a universally troublesome piecing challenge. Quarterly shipments were added to the original shipment choices for store owners. Despite the glitches and adjustments you stuck with us—and we will be forever grateful!

Backed by your enthusiasm and shaped by the lessons we’ve learned over the past year, Civil War Chronicles will be our second BOM offering in partnership with Marcus Brothers and Judie Rothermel, and we know you'll enjoy the improvements.

Vivian Ritter, experienced technical editor, has written the pattern directions for clarity and accuracy. Quick piecing tricks are included. For those who prefer picture examples, improved layouts and color coding have also been added.

Finally, just in today is info on the new Gettysburg Memorial quilt kit. Order yours now!

As we get closer to the Chronicles kickoff date, we will be sharing more information about this second heirloom project reminiscent of simpler times.

Sue, Sarah, Dolores & the Homestead Hearth gang (including Harvey!)

No comments: