Photos and article by Patrice Johnson
“There’s a fabric store in Stockbridge?” is a common question when the topic of new business arises in local conversations.
Local? Yes, Quality Quilting’s retail space brims with myriad fabrics and studious shoppers, but its backroom is populated with quilts arriving daily from New York to California—all in need of a caring touch.
Step through the belled door into the potpourri-scented foyer, and a purring tabby cat is likely to greet you. Enter a “blender room” stocked with vibrant fabrics in an array of textures, and a curled white cat on a measuring table may yawn at you.
Clearly, Quality Quilting is not your average big-box fabric store. Even those who have never sewn on a button are bound to feel their creative juices flow in the children’s quilting section. From there, a friendly golden retriever happily escorts browsers into the 1800’s reproduction fabric room, complete with a book section.
Asked how she started her enterprise, auburn-haired owner Rhonda Loy smiles. “It began as a hobby about fifteen years ago and grew out of control.” The business expanded from her basement in Dexter into her air-conditioned barn. As revenues grew, she sold fabric out of a store in Ann Arbor while keeping her long arm quilting in Dexter.
What’s long arm quilting?
I’ll show you.” Loy swings open a door to a lengthy backroom humming with the tik-eta-tik of sewing machines. At the north end, an operator monitors a computerized device that stretches like Michael Phelps’ reach over a lengthy table covered in quilt backing material. “I borrowed money to buy my first long arm eighteen years ago,” Loy says. Today, her shop is home to four.
After about three years of shunting between her Dexter and Ann Arbor locations, Rhonda and husband Jim discovered the Stockbridge area. “He bought the Munith restaurant,” she says, “and I relocated my business to Stockbridge where we’ve operated for the past year and a half.” The couple recently purchased a home within the school district.
Loy currently employs three full-time staff. “All the people who work here are from this area.” She adds that she hopes her company’s niche market and customer focus, combined with its increased space and operational efficiency, will help it continue to grow and bring even more employment to the area. “It takes about a week and a half to complete a quilt,” Loy says. “Other companies may take up to six months.” She cautions that backlogs may arise with the approach of the holiday season.
Nested in a crock, rolls of dishtowel cloth point upward to a corner. “That’s our embroidery nook,” Loy explains. “Hand embroidery is making a comeback in popularity because it’s so portable. You can take it with you on a bus, while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, wherever.”
After retiring, Stockbridge township resident, Connie Risner, took an embroidery class at Quality Quilting. She became so proficient she now teaches.
“Hand embroidery became my passion.” Risner grins, her blue eyes conveying both shyness and enthusiasm. “It is relaxing and the results are so rewarding. It’s a beautiful art.”
“Connie’s November class is sold out.” Loy beams. “But we plan to schedule more.”
Quality Quilting, located at 4983 Bird Dr., Stockbridge, MI (behind McDonald’s), is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone: (517)-851-6325; website: http://www.quality-quilting.com/.