The Fabric Garden on Route 201 in Madison, Maine, to close

When asked what she’ll miss most in her retirement, owner Kala Murphy said, “The people, the people, the people.”

MADISON, Maine – In business for over 43 years, The Fabric Garden has seen many changes and challenges from its location on Route 201 in Madison. Even so, the store remained a place where creativity could flourish.

Owner Kala Murphy has announced her resignation and the shop will close at the end of the year. Until then, the entire inventory will be reduced by up to 30%.

Murphy is from Long Island, New York, and learned about Maine, and the Madison area in particular, as a child when she visited her aunt and uncle who had an apartment on Clearwater Lake in Farmington.

She opened the shop with her aunt Mahre and sister Beth in 1978, at a time when people were sewing clothing items for their families, wedding dresses, and upholstery. and home decor. However, over the years, The Fabric Garden turned into a quilting shop as home sewing waned and quilting grew in popularity.

“When the late ’80s came and we stopped sewing clothes, women still wanted this creative outlet,” Murphy said. “And that’s what this whole business is about. People want to create; they want to feel good; they want that confidence: ‘Wow, look what I did. Look what I’m going to give for Christmas. ‘ It’s just such a good feeling. “

Garments often require technical sewing in various directions and lengths, and if the garment does not fit it must be adjusted and remade. Compared to sewing clothes, quilting offers an easier and more immediate satisfaction.

“[Quilting] sew straight strips or angles, put them together, it doesn’t fit, ”Murphy said. “It’s easy, it’s instant. So this is where the popularity of quilting has really increased. “

The store grew with the advent of quilting, but it also benefited from the decision to start selling Janome quilting and sewing machines – an idea that was born on Christmas Eve 1979 when a man came into the store to make a sewing machine give away his wife.

“I was like, ‘Oop, I don’t have any sewing machines,'” Murphy said. “But it sown the seeds. It sown the seed that, ‘Oh my god, someday. Maybe one day I could have sewing machines. ‘ I would like to show people how they work with their machines to make them feel comfortable. Maybe one day I’ll have machines in this shop. “

The Fabric Garden started selling Janome sewing machines in 1984 and then expanded to selling Janome long arm quilting machines. Murphy said the shop is now one of the top 25 Janome dealers in the US out of a total of more than 700. She attributes this to the shop’s service and support, which gives lessons, demonstrations and is always available to answer questions about their machines was standing.

It wasn’t just four decades of smooth driving for The Fabric Garden. Murphy said there were a few points where she thought the store wouldn’t necessarily survive, especially in the early days.

Murphy’s aunt Mahre invested her savings in the business, and Murphy herself invested money borrowed from her parents. Much was at stake.

“We opened in May. I freaked out in December, ”Murphy said.

“It took a long time. Probably a good four years that I’ve really, really seen it. No money out, really careful, go ahead, we have to do this,” she added. You know? That’s it. We’re invested. “

Murphy said things got better between 1984 and 1985. But that was before Walmart and other department stores came to the area in the 90s. At the time, she didn’t know if her business could keep up.

The 2008 financial crisis was another difficult time as many of the shop’s customers were and still are older. When the stock market went down, a lot of people wanted to hold back on their spending.

For Murphy, fighting over a small Maine business will soon be a thing of the past, but that certainly doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. Saying goodbye to the shop also means saying goodbye to their “ladies” who work or shop in the shop, many of whom have become their families.

“[We’ve] been through a lot. Yes this is a business and yes we sell things. But we also share things, ”she said. “We’ve seen weddings, we’ve seen childbirths. There are also dead. When my sister Beth died she was a really big part of this store. The outpouring of caring has been wonderful for me. So you mean the world. It’s my family. “

Murphy said one woman has worked in the store for 35 years and there are a few others who have been there for 18 years. Murphy’s sister Celia has been working in the store since 2007.

“We have seen the same customers coming for years. It’s not really a customer relationship, it’s a friendship, ”Celia said. “Quilters usually have very big hearts. You tend to be really caring and give to people. “

When Murphy announced on Facebook that the store was closing, it received warm comments from quilters, some of whom have been shopping there since day one.

“I will miss that warm welcome and that beautiful smile, you were always there to help us and tell us everything about the machines, the material and of course everything else,” wrote one commentator.

“Such a big loss for the community! Your knowledge and commitment touched us all, ”wrote another. “Thank you for the many good years in which you have rendered such a valuable service to your customers and friends! I wish you all the best! You will miss ‘nah’.”

What is the long-time owner of a retired quilt shop looking forward to? Quilting, of course!

“It’s funny, I used to sew a lot and did a lot of projects. And then, as business got busier, I had other things to do. You know, I had to do books or order books or whatever, I couldn’t just go home and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to sew four hours.’ I just couldn’t, “she said. “I’m really looking forward to doing a bit of quilting, and you know, I checked the stash too.”

At the Fabric Garden level, he had about 10,000 balls of fabric in store. Murphy estimates there are about 3,000 screws left to sell. She hopes the sale will help her clean up inventory and give customers a chance to get quality items at a discount.

“I could have liquidated my business with one phone call and that’s it. I decided against it. I chose to have my incredible inventory of high quality fabrics, machines and items here so that my existing customers can get a huge discount, ”she said. “I want my customers to have the opportunity to get great things at a discount, and that’s why I decided to do it. Yes, it will take longer. Yes, we are exhausted at the end of the day. But I think it’s a good thing for customers. “

Murphy didn’t reveal much about what will inhabit the space currently held by The Fabric Garden. The good news, she said, is that it will be a similar store, and it will belong to someone she has known for 43 years. She said the new store will sell Janome machines as well, but she’s currently unsure of what the store will offer for fabric inventory.

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