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  • Belle Stemper

Don't Open a Fabric Shop If You Know How to Sew!

Did you know that Ragtime Fabrics is owned and managed by someone who doesn't know much about sewing?  And isn't really much interested in sewing?


Belle is the first to admit that the higher end Baby Lock sewing machines . . . well, let's just say ​she finds them somewhat challenging.

Whuuuuuut???  That's crazy, right?

Years ago, I ran into Belle when I was shopping at The Fabric Shop on Court Square here in Harrisonburg.  Michael the owner was on the verge of retiring and I, along with his other customers, was wondering what we'd do without a local sewing store.  When Belle told me she was thinking about taking over the business, I was startled.

"I didn't know you sewed!"  I exclaimed with the same delight I always feel when I discover a friend shares one of my favorite hobbies.

"Oh, I don't,"  she breezily replied.


This is what Belle's day OFF looks like! Cleaning up behind the store.

Over the next few months, I felt so worried, sad and apprehensive for Belle.  Such a nice person.  Such a shame that she was going to fail spectacularly in just a few months with her crazy idea of running a fabric store as a non-sewer!  

And, selfishly, I was dismayed that the new store -- obviously! -- would be entirely inadequate since she didn't know the first thing about sewers and what they want.


Putting fabric away in the stock room.






Boy, was I wrong!  Fifteen years later, Ragtime Fabrics is going strong with Belle at the helm. 

​I've often mused to myself how ironic it is.









Back in the 1980's, I owned a yarn shop.  I'm an avid knitter -- so what better business for me to run, right?  Well, I nursed it along for four years before facing reality (not enough customers, not enough sales).  I realize in retrospect that I had very opinionated ideas about the yarns I carried (and those that I refused to sell).  I was way too emotionally invested in the hobby to objectively judge how to run the business successfully.

I think now that one of Belle's many strengths as a business owner is that she is NOT into sewing.  She doesn't make judgments about what her customers should want to buy...she carries what her customers do want to find in their local fabric shop, whether it's the finest laces and pure linen yardage or a neon-colored, zig-zagged striped polyester!


It's a wonder Belle isn't bald by now!

Next time you're in Ragtime, ask Belle how to sew a French seam or insert a zipper into the side of a bodice.  She'll cheerfully admit she hasn't a clue and will call over an employee who can explain.  But if you want her to carry a certain sewing tool or special order some purple vinyl for you, she'll be all ears and will do her best to provide you with it.




I'm thinking that may be why she's still in business and I'm not...lol!


~Kathy

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