Small business making it work fabric store survives seamlessly – news – – providence, ri

What makes my business unique is it’s mystical. It’s magic. You come here and you feel happy. You feel happy about sewing, happy about life. You walk into this building and you enter a world that’s creative and exciting. That’s probably the best thing I could say. People walk into our store and they stop at the entrance and go, “Wow.” And that’s what makes us different.

Since we first opened, the world has changed. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was introduced. Then the bankruptcy laws changed, so retailers were going bankrupt left and right, and that meant that manufacturers didn’t get paid. Then, at a certain point, retailers stopped having real buyers.

The buyers didn’t really care about the product anymore; they just cared about the price.

My husband retired around 1995, and I continued. I started a retail store, selling all kinds of crafts, and that offset the difficulties of the manufacturing business. As the retail business grew, the manufacturing business decreased. Then in 2005, we had a major flood here. We had 3 feet of water inside the building and everything was destroyed. I had to decide what I wanted to do with myself and I was too young to retire.

My dream was to be a really good fabric store, specializing in cotton. So, I started all over again and now I have a fabric store. When you go into business, you have to change when the world changes. And now there’s a new change happening: the internet. The internet affects brick-and-mortar, so brick-and-mortar has to change to the way the customers are thinking by incorporating the internet.

The answer to that question is that I have been eating and surviving off of this business for 34 years, and that’s pretty good. But the thing about going into business is it isn’t about how much money you make. You’re trying to make a difference in the world. You have a thought and you go with it, that’s the reason you do it. It’s your life, it’s your passion. It’s the reason you get up every day. It’s always demanding, but I like it so I don’t really think of it as work.

I think that every 10 years you better revamp your business, because the world will change and you might be left without a business. The biggest challenge I faced was the 2005 flood. You cannot imagine what it’s like to have a huge, successful business and you walk in the door the next day and it’s mud. People assumed we went out of business. We had to start all over from scratch. That was the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life. It was an astronomical thing, to see millions of dollars, floating in mud.

I have a saying that I developed at the time of our flood, and that is, "You get 24 hours of self-pity, then you better figure out how to dig out of the hole.” That’s really it. The first step was to clean up. We had no money; our inventory was our money, so we cleaned it up. I stayed home for a few days to do the insurance claims, which were monumental. And when I came back to the store, some of my employees had taken a few rows of fabric inventory and set it up, because that survived. Anything that was over 4 feet off the ground survived. And I looked at it and I said, “I think that’s what I want to do.” So, I did some research and I started all over.

My husband had a philosophy when we chose to come here. He said that it’s better to be a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a big pond. And it is true: in the 30 years that I’ve been here, I’ve met a lot of people. That’s really a nice thing.

I wish to continue to grow our business and expand the reach further than the reach that we have. What I mean by that is people drive 100 miles and don’t bat an eyelash to come to my store, so now I want to grow the internet side of the business. We joined Etsy in January, so customers can shop our products on there. We’re just starting that. It’s hard when you’ve been a good-sized brick-and-mortar, but that’s the type of growth we’re looking at.