Join us for another installment in our bi-weekly series featuring a behind-the-scenes peek at inspirational crafting retailers nationwide that we’ve had the pleasure to meet through Bluprint Connect. This week we were lucky to talk with Sweet Home Quilt Co. owner Melisa Morrison, about the challenges and triumphs of her family-owned business in Georgia, as well as what her unique customers enjoy the most, and her unique events like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic!
What inspired you to open your quilt shop in Olde Town Conyers?
After a 20 year career in Human Resources, my job was eliminated in early 2005 in a corporate downsizing. After a couple of months of job searching, a friend introduced me to a fabric manufacturer’s representative who convinced me that the timing and the location was right for a quilt shop in Conyers, a charming, historic community 30 miles east of Atlanta. I had been quilting for 20 years, but had never worked retail and didn’t know much about the industry. I liked the idea of working for myself so I did some research, put together a business plan and opened for business in August that same year.
What was the biggest challenge to getting started?
Actually the biggest challenge was finding the “perfect location.” After years of traveling and visiting quilt shops all over the country, I had a vision of how I wanted my quilt shop to look. And I had a difficult time finding space that fit that vision. I’m a traditional quilter and I wanted a traditional style quilt shop, not a commercial shopping center type space. I must have looked at dozens of commercial retail spaces, but could not find what I envisioned. Everything else was in place…I just needed a building! I happened to drive by this house on my way to lunch one day, and the realtor was putting the sign in the front yard. A quick u-turn and impromptu walk-through with the realtor and I knew I’d found a home for my quilt shop. We opened for business less than a month later.
What makes your shop unique?
Our shop is in a charming historic house built in 1900, with original hardwood floors and architectural details that are the perfect backdrop for the large selection of Civil War reproduction fabrics we have. We are well known for the unique events we put together including our annual Party on the Porch, which is a combined celebration of the shop’s anniversary and customer appreciation event. It’s an evening of games, food and fun that draws a large crowd. We also look for unique opportunities to have an event – we’ve done a Teddy Bear’s Picnic where customers brought their favorite teddy bear, and Derby Day with Hatitude where customers wore their most outrageous Derby Hats to win prizes. We are honored that Sweet Home Quilt Co. was a featured Top Ten Shop in Quilt Sampler magazine in 2012.
How would you describe the style of fabrics and projects in your shop?
Overall, I’d say we’re more of a traditional shop in terms of the type of fabrics we stock and the samples we make. We carry an eclectic mix of fabrics, including Civil War and 30’s reproductions, batiks, novelties, and a large selection of black and white prints. We also have a nice selection of hand-dyed wools, which are more difficult to find in the South. We have hundreds of samples on display including quilts and wall hangings, and small projects like pincushions, purses, pillows and aprons. We offer one or two block of the month programs each year and try to change those up so that different techniques are used. We also offered our first Mystery Quilt program this past year and it was hugely popular with our customers.
What have you learned about your customers that you didn’t expect?
With so many shopping options available, customers want an experience when they come into my shop. They want to be entertained. Quilting has always been a social activity and never more so than today with our busy lives; a fun event offers the opportunity to enjoy quilting for a couple of hours in a unique way – it draws people together and fosters new friendships.
How did you first hear about Bluprint Connect?
I had taken several classes personally – I’m a knitter also and find the knitting classes invaluable – before I learned of the program at Quilt Market last year.
When you joined Bluprint Connect how were you hoping it would help you?
The majority of our customers work full-time and have families, and many live 20+ miles away from the shop so it is difficult to find time to take classes in a traditional classroom setting. We saw Bluprint Connect as a way to offer a wide variety of classes to our customers on their terms, available when it fit their schedule.
We’ve been very pleased with the response from our customers. We just finished our third promotion and we’re seeing an increase in participation. We like being able to refer our in-store customers to Bluprint as a resource, and they love it when we break out the laptop computer and pull up their class to help them with their questions.
What do your customers like about the program?
We’ve gotten good feedback from our customers. They like the variety of classes available and they love the coupons! They also enjoy that they are supporting our shop with their class enrollments – customer loyalty is alive and well!
Do you have any tips for other retailers on how to get the most out of their Bluprint Connect sales?
The promotional materials provided by Bluprint are a wonderful start, but take it to the next level by personalizing the message for your customers with your Facebook, Twitter and email communications. Be sure that you promote Bluprint Connect in your shop, too, with your every day customers. Look for opportunities to suggest Bluprint classes and encourage they take the free classes to try it out. Suggest Bluprint classes as a follow up resource when someone comes in to ask for help with a quilting question. Offer a Bluprint class registration as a prize for a giveaway or promotion.
Consumers are bombarded with options these days, and staying competitive is difficult. Our customers have changed their shopping habits, and knowing how to react and adjust our buying habits is a never-ending challenge. We know we can’t be all things to all people, but being proactive in our approach puts us ahead of the competition – offering Bluprint Connect classes is a perfect example.
Will you be doing anything new in your shop this year?
We plan to expand our product mix to take advantage of the growing trend toward other crafts, offering classes and workshops in paper crafts, knitting and crocheting, etc.
Can you tell us a bit about your Pinterest Party?
The Pinterest Party was actually the brainchild of my friend, Roseann, owner of Rosebud’s Cottage in White Bear Lake, MN. My customers love Pinterest, as do I, so when she proposed the idea I jumped on it. I opted to have our Pinterest Party on Super Bowl Sunday, and advertised it as “more pinteresting than football!” I selected about a dozen projects from the shop’s Pinterest boards and made the projects to display during the party. I also included a couple of snack recipes, which we served at the party. I chose projects that were unique and relatively simple and quick to make that didn’t require a lot of special tools or materials. We also offered four make-and-take projects that the partygoers could make during the afternoon. Everyone also received a creative goodie bag and a handout with tips for using Pinterest and links to all the projects we featured. The goal was to celebrate Pinterest with those who already love it, and to introduce newbies to Pinterest and draw attention to our shop’s Pinterest boards. Once again, something different and unique for my customers to enjoy.
Any advice for aspiring or current quilters?
Never stop learning! There are always new tools and techniques that make quilting more fun and interesting.
Share with us what you love about Sweet Home Quilt Co.!
Be sure not to miss our previous featured stores Shop Spotlight: CityCraft and Shop Spotlight: Quilting on the Square. Come on back Wednesday, March 13th to discover another great local crafting retailer!
With our new partnership program, Bluprint Connect, you can purchase Bluprint classes through your local independent brick and mortar retailer and directly support them in doing so. Plus, you’ll get a coupon back to that shop to get your class supplies, so it’s a win-win for all! Check with your favorite quilt or yarn shop to see if they’re a Bluprint Connect partner yet. If you’re a shop owner or would like to see your local shop participate in Bluprint Connect, email connect(at)craftsy(dot)com.