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Quilt Arts owners stitch passion into thriving new business

Turning a passion into a thriving business was as simple as piecing together bits of fabric for Anne Robertson and Marianne Machost. The two women met last spring and bonded over their passion for quilting. The relationship led to a new, but thriving, business in Flowood on Lakeland Drive called Quilt Arts.

“It was fate,” said Robertson, who has been a quilter for the past 20 to 25 years. “I met Marianne last spring at the Bernina sewing machine store in Ridgeland where she worked. We found we both had a passion for fabrics and we started talking. In the back of my mind, I had toyed with the idea of opening a quilt store, and with my youngest child graduating from Millsaps, it seemed like the right time. I mentioned the idea to Marianne who said to count her in.”

Opening a business is no easy task, but the duo did their homework. “When we definitely decided to do this, we went into a four- to five-month ‘quiet phase’ where we did our due diligence and worked on a model for what we wanted our business to be. We visited a lot of quilting stores around the country, and we were the fortunate recipients of a lot of support from both the industry and from other shop owners,” said Robertson.

After drawing up a solid business plan, including what types of fabrics the store would carry, they went about looking for a location. “We wanted to be close to I-55 North and I-20 East/West so we could capture people who were traveling through the state. Quilters tend to be destination shoppers, so we wanted to make it easier for them,” said Robertson

They found what they were looking for in an existing building that fronts Lakeland Drive. Customers who step inside the store will be overwhelmed with color and variety of fabrics.

“We wanted to have a large selection and I believe we’ve accomplished that,” said Robertson. “We are particularly proud of our international line of fabrics.” The store carries batik fabrics that are sun dyed in South Africa, Aboriginal designs from Australia, Japanese fabrics and more. It also carries traditional colors and fabric collections to unusual designs and more modern colors. Of the designer fabrics it carries, it has the entire line. “We felt that if customers liked the designer, they’d want to have access to it all so they could experience the designer’s entire body of work.”

While the fabrics are important, the store represents more than just quilting supplies.

“We called it ‘Quilt Arts’ because we envisioned it being a gathering place. The name implies the mission of the store, which is celebrating the art of quilting, and in doing so, we supply all of the beautiful materials and resources in which to do that,” Robertson explained.

The store offers classes from beginners to advanced. The store has a studio classroom area as well as providing a long arm service that will allow it to quilt for others. A large gallery space around the store is provided for people to display their finished quilts.

“Our biggest surprise in business so far is the diversity of the people who quilt,” said Machost. “We only thought we knew our targeted market. Instead, we have lots of medical students from (the University of Mississippi Medical Center), and many husband and wife quilters.”

Robertson said that the store’s customer base is much broader than she and Machost had expected. “From elementary school students to retired folks, people are discovering that they can enjoy making something beautiful, tangible and useful. Quilts are something that can be passed on. It’s a great use of time and a wonderful and relaxing hobby.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer S.J. Anderson at andersonwrites@yahoo.com .

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