After Spring Quilt Market, I realized how attracted I have become to the stories of store owners within the industry. (Anyone who saw me was pretty much ambushed by all of my questions!) Every store owner has a different story mixed with their own reasons for success and perspective about the business. As Fall Quilt Market is at the end of the month, I decided to highlight both online and brick and mortar stores to learn more about this important facet of our business.
My first store “interview” is with Gotham Quilts. Located in New York City (and two blocks from Mood Fabrics!), Gotham Quilts has both a physical store front along with an online store. They have hand sewing meetups along with social sewing and quilting/sewing classes. Let’s learn more about them!
Why did you decide to open your store?
Andrea and I (Ivete) talked for a few years about opening a store before
deciding to do it. We thought NYC needed another quilt shop, and we
wanted to create the kind of space we were looking for as modern
quilters. We’re focused on being part of the NYC quilting community
and bringing new quilters into the fold. We partnered up because I
have the business background and Andrea has the design and teaching
background, so we complement each other.
How do you define success, personally and for the store?
This is a hard one. In terms of the store, Andrea and I set goals and
work on meeting them, and we’ve already met several of our interim
goals since opening. For example, as of May of this year, we’re now
profitable, which is exciting because I had set a goal to be
profitable by the end of 2016. We’re currently working on our next
goal, which is paying off debt. Ultimately I think we’ll feel the
store is a success when we’re able to earn living wages from Gotham
Quilts (neither of us is currently being paid at all). As far as
personally, I’m quite the workaholic, and what gives me the greatest
feeling of success is focusing that workaholic tendency on my own
business. I still work full time at a day job in addition to the shop,
and I’m looking forward to one day making the shop my full time job.
Some people seem to think that owning a shop like this means sitting
around sewing all day every day. The truth is that I now sew way less
than I did before starting this business! And it’s never at the store
during regular hours, I’m sewing at home at night or early in the
morning before “real work” starts.
Why have you been able to keep your store open?
We started in August 2014 so it’s probably too early to be able to say
something like “have been able to keep your store open.” Like any
small business we expected to lose money the first few years and
therefore set ourselves up so that we could afford to. So when we did
lose money, we could stay open because we had planned for it. The
reason we’re still open despite losing money is because we’re growing
fast and we expect the business to be healthier in the near future.
People seem to see selling as a bad sign, but if you’re a small
business owner, selling is the best thing that can happen once you
want to/need to not run your business anymore. Selling your business
means you did it right enough that someone else wants to pay you money
to take over what you built. So I view selling as a success, both for
the owner individually, and for the industry as a whole, because it
means the new owner believes in the market and industry enough to
invest in it.
As for the future of the industry, I think our industry is going to
continue to change right along with other retail. There’s been a trend
of retail going in one of two directions: cheap/low service
quality/impersonal vs high end/personalized/high service. In the quilt
world, you’d have Walmart and JoAnn’s in the first group and small
LQS’s in the second. I think this trend is going to continue, and
you’ll see LQS’s continue to specialize and move more towards highly
curated, high service level, specialty shops with their own unique
flavors and specialities. I think you’re going to see way more
automation in the JoAnn’s of the world (think a robot cutting your
fabric, not a high schooler) and way more personalized, one-on-one
service from the LQS’s. Things like custom quilt patterns, delivery
service, private shopping hours. And yes, there probably will be fewer
LQS’s in all, just like there are fewer independent movie theaters and
guitar shops, but I don’t think they’ll ever go completely away.
I hope you enjoyed the first interview of the series! If you want to learn more about Gotham Quilts and keep up with what they’re up to? Join their email list here. You’ll get a 10% off coupon for joining.