Hillsboro quilt shop owner Marie Kessler of Kessler Kreations recently announced that she will be closing the fabric and retail portion of her business by the end of March, and the decision likely has countywide implications.
“It’s been nuts,” Kessler said. “I’ve been fielding a lot of calls. Out of respect, I already sent out my newsletter. I’ve had to back out of future events, and right now, I’m just trying to absorb it all.”
Kessler said it made sense to add fabric sales to an already established machine quilting business she bought more than five years ago, but times change and supply and demand is a fluid phenomenon, with demand slowly drying up, she said.
“Economically, it’s been slow,” Kessler said. “I kind of had to look at the writing on the wall.
Paula Perry, one of three partners at Sew What Quilt Shop in Marion, was discouraged by the news.
“I hate to see her close,” Perry said. “Marie carried things and provided services that we didn’t have. Being so close by, we shared customers. If they came to one, they went to the other.”
While both quilt shops have some in-county customers, Perry said, most of their shared customer base came from out of county. Perry anticipated picking up some customers but losing others, and said it was a 50/50 chance if the closure would help or harm Sew What.
“It could be a tough year for everybody,” Perry said. “Many [in-county] places have closed this last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more did. We’re doing everything we can to make our shop work.”
Kessler said out-of-town competitors, the Internet, and the demise of other related businesses diminished customer base.
“We used to get a lot of out of town business,” Kessler said. “People would make a day out of going to Nancy’s [Fashions], Odds ‘n’ Ends, Little Pleasures, and our shop, but after we lost Nancy’s and Little Pleasures, Hillsboro ceased being a destination city for shoppers.
“Now, unless they’re coming [to Hillsboro] for Dale’s sausage or to the Ford shop, there is nothing to make a day out of, and I can’t depend on a ‘maybe.’”
Kessler will still offer machine quilting and custom quilting services from the location until she can sell the building.
Sheryl Richert has operated a consigner booth out of Kessler Kreations since Kessler took over.
Richert said the brightly colored fabric and booths had a “good vibe” that could bring people joy, and foster a sense of community among those of similar interests. She lamented a pending loss of camaraderie, income, and commercial benefit to the community.
“I’m disappointed and sad to see a good thing come to an end,” Richert said. “I also hope that it becomes a catalyst for a realization about what’s happening in small town rural Kansas and an impetus for change.”
Kessler Kreations brought more than one service under the same roof.
About 17 consigners will be affected by the closure, and Kessler said it is unclear how many of their services will stay at the location during the transition.
“When there are fewer places to shop there are fewer reasons to come to town. Local customers alone will not generate a large percentage of sales tax,” Richert said. “There have to be visitors to help our tax base. That’s no longer happening.”
Another consigner, Nadine Iseli, opened up three booths at Kessler Kreations after she and her husband Delmar closed Central Park Antiques in Marion.
“A lot of people enjoy Marie’s place,” Iseli said. “It makes me sad. I don’t really have a backup plan for my stuff. I guess I’ll just have to find another building to rent.”
Richert will remain at Kessler Kreations until the end of March; after that, she said there was a possibility of doing monthly event sales as long as the space was available.
After the March 31 retail close out, Kessler’s business might open weekly on certain days.
Once Kessler sells the building, she will either take her machine quilting to another location or make it a home-based business, she said. In the meantime, Kessler said machine quilting would become a part-time, by appointment endeavor for her as she hunts for a second job.
“I worked on my resume for the first time in 10 years, and I have no idea what sort of job I will find,” she said. “I’m not too choosy. I don’t have a college education. But running this business I definitely honed and refined my multitasking and public relations skills.”
In the midst of sorting items for a closeout sale that begins Monday, she said she would miss being immersed in a colorful environment of myriad fabrics; conversely, she is looking forward to having more spare time.
“My husband is used to me working seven days a week,” Kessler said. “I told him we’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do together with all this time together.”