Owning a Quilt Shop - a love story

    A question I get asked all the time is - "Why do you own a quilt shop?" Good question! It was and is the most unlikely series of events that has turned into a dream come true.

    My love of sewing goes way back to when I was 12 years old. I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and decided that I wanted to learn how to sew . My Mom had a sewing machine and made me some clothes growing up, but her full time job kept her from having much time for sewing. Luckily, there was a sewing store that would let a 12 year old sign up for sewing classes! So I took 2 city buses each day across town and learned to sew (this was Iowa in the 70s where a 12 year old could ride a bus alone). I made clothes for me and other people and loved it - then it kind of became uncool at my school - so I stopped sewing....for 15 years - ack!

    In the meantime, my Mom started quilting. I loved what she was making but I saw no reason for me to cut up all that gorgeous fabric and sew it back together. I had a busy corporate career and after all, Mom seemed happy to make quilts for me so there was no reason for me to do it! Then, she was sick from chemotherapy and that is where my journey to owning Wish Upon a Quilt began...

    cathy_wishUponaQuiltOne day Mom asked me to cut the fabric for a quilt for her since she had just had surgery - of course I couldn't refuse. Well, with one zip of the rotary cutter through the fabric, I was hooked! I loved the sound, the feel of the fabric, the perfectly straight cuts. So much better than my scissors from years before! How could I get more of this? Mom encouraged me to take classes and I took as many as I could. I joined the local guild. I started shopping at every quilt store I came across - but I wasn't going to have a stash - Ha! I cut out an entire King size Bloomin 9 patch quilt - in hotel rooms across the US - before 9/11 when you could take rotary cutters in a carry on bag.

    By that time, I was traveling for my job about 50-60% of the time and used all of my free time on the road to check out the local quilt shops. My job was becoming increasingly stressful, I was exhausted and I was using the quilt shop tours as my only respite from the road warrior lifestyle. I started noticing that the people working in the quilt shops seemed happy and loving what they do. A little voice popped into my head one day and said - "Maybe you should have a quilt shop"...hmmmm.

    I didn't really think much more about it and went about my life...cutting fabric in hotels and sewing it up on the weekends. At the guild meeting, I heard about a new shop that was mostly online but was open to the public a few hours a week including Saturday from 10-2. I tried to make it over there a couple of times, but could never get the timing right until one glorious Fall day in October, 2007. I walked into Wish Upon A Quilt and fell in love! The bright colors, the precuts, the crazy way they had the fabrics organized on the shelves...all of it. I was hooked. Little did I know then, that this would become my store!

    I left my corporate job on March 31, 2008 and on April 1, 2008 - that's right April Fool's Day - I became the owner of Wish Upon A Quilt! All of my friends said I was crazy to quit a nice corporate job and run a quilt shop! I did it anyway. I was so busy putting together a business plan, negotiating with the owner, meeting my new team and learning how to buy LOTS of fabric, that I wasn't paying attention to the fact that there was a big recession just around the corner! Oops.

    On opening day, I walked into my new store and an air-conditioning malfunction had caused a portion of the ceiling to fall in and made a big mess on the floor. The water didn't get transferred correctly so the city shut it off. My Mom brought her bee friends to shop and we didn't have a working bathroom! However, what we did have was what I love about my store - we had laughter, hugs, stories of quilts, and more fun than we could imagine!

    It has now been almost 5 years and I have learned so much. I have learned that I absolutely love providing that place of respite that I was so desperately seeking for other women. You see, when you walk in and I see the troubles and worries you carry with you on your face - you spend some time with us and the fabric - and you leave just a little bit happier - it makes my day! That is why I love what I do - I love making your day just a little bit easier and more fun. Life is short and for me, there is nothing better.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you in this very special place.

    Hugs and Stitches,


    P.S...here is a picture of my Mom (Jan) and I celebrating her birthday last year in the store! I'm happy to report she is a fully recovered 10 year survivor of breast cancer :-)

    21 thoughts on “Owning a Quilt Shop - a love story”

    • Jocelyn

      Love this story. I have always dreamed of owning a quilt store, even as far back as the mid 80's. But it never has happened. Your story is beautiful.. And what a blessing to have your Mom by your side.

    • Nancy Myers

      Cathy, Thanks so much for sharing your story! I have often wondered how you came to own Wish....it's a touching story, and I got a bit teary! Can't believe it's been five years....and can't wait to see where the next five lead you! Best wishes! Nancy

    • Sharon Gallegos

      It's Sharon from Virginia, we met a the Lake Junaluska quilt t retreat. I so enjoyed your story. There's nothing better than having a job that you enjoy and besides that, you get to be your own boss !. You've done a great job with the shop, I can tell from the on line store. Keep up the great work!!

    • Donna Frederick

      That is such a fun love story. Thank goodness you went after what makes you happy because it makes a lot of us other ladies happy to have you at Wish Upon a Quilt. Although I've never had the privilege to visit your shop. I have seen many, well maybe all your wonderful video tutorials and they are so appreciated and always make me happy. I bet you're a hoot and if I am ever near Cedar Rapids, Wish Upon a Quilt is a must go to for me!

    • Jeannie Horton

      Oh my! And on top of it you (Cathy) are the nicest quilt shop owner I have ever met!
      WUQ is the absolute best quilt shop in the Raleigh area! Thank you for taking the chance!

    • Miche'le Armstrong

      I too am almost at the five year mark from the time my life changed an I became a quilt shop owner. I know I will never be rich but boy the days I spend in my shop keep me smiling and more than content. We are a strange breed as quilt shop owners - but a happy breed.
      Happy birthday - by the way, 1st April is my birthday too - very curious ;-/

    • Kathy Kapetanakis
      Kathy Kapetanakis February 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      I can't wait to get a day free so I can run in and see YOU. There was something about you that clicked with me the last time I was in. I just read your blog article and WOW! Cedar Rapids, Iowa! I grew up in Moline, Illinois! I will see you soon!!!

    • Martha Bragg

      Loved reading about how you came to own the shop. So glad you and your mom are doing well.

    • Sofia

      Thanks for sharing your story. I LOVE your store and always go on and on about how wonderful it is. I think you have done an amazing job.

    • Jacquelyn Pulford
      Jacquelyn Pulford February 18, 2013 at 7:20 am

      Cathy, I'm not on facebook but just wanted to share my quilting story. I'll be 73 in August and yes I'm a CPA still practing but mostly just preparing tax returns. My first quilt was when I was a teenager and won an honorable mention in the local Talent Exhibit. I learned how to sew on my mothers treadle sewing machine. It only went forward not backward. Since a year ago September I've made mostly strip quilts, lap size. Most of them have been donated to a local shelter for women and their children. The lap size quilt is just right for a child. I've donated 32 quilts so far and have another 25 or so ready to bind and donate to the shelter. I feel that these kids go through enough that they should have something that they can call their own.

      By the way the original order of "Good Night Spot" finally did arrive so I was able to make 6 quilts with "Good Night Spot" instead of what I had originally figured would be 3.


    • needlewings

      Moms are always the start of things! lol Lovely shop! So glad you got into quilting and congratulations to your mom for being a breast cancer survivor!

    • Theresa

      What a great story! I happened upon your store when I was traveling with my husband on a business trip. At the time, I was not working and had charted out a whole list of shops that I wanted to visit, yours was the only one we had time to let me go to and it was exactly what you describe. Even as a stranger who may never get to come back in reality, I felt like I was taking a retreat there. Your staff was friendly and more than helpful. We no longer have a local shop in my area, and I so miss that feeling of commradere' you get shopping for 'perfectly good' fabric to cut up and sew back together in a quilt shop. I visit your store often just to see what's going on. I wish you continued success! By the way, I am an 11 year survivor of breast cancer myself, so cudos to your Mom!

    • Marsha Kestner

      I loved your quilt shop story. Im also happy your mom is a survivor. I have a friend whom got me started in quilting. She also is a cancer survivor! I never thought I would be in a quilting position, I also am of the mind why would I want to cut up a beautiful piece of fabric to cut it into little pieces to sew them together again? For years the good LORD used me as a nurse now I think he has other ideas for my time! As I sit in my sewing room I am happy for the times I get to create beautiful quilts for my family and friends! Thanks for the chance to share my story!

    • patticole

      Quilters make the best friends. They know how to make much out of little; how to patch up just about anything; how to create lasting smiles; how to spread love that will last for generations. I can never thank my sister enough for introducing me to the idea of beginning a quilt!

    • Kathleen

      Love your story--ESPECIALLY the part about your mom's good health report!
      I love shopping on your website.

    • The Beltline Buzz

      Cathy, I love your story. I'm doing some research for an article for The Beltline Buzz, and wanted to promote quilting in the Triangle. I also wanted to tell our readers about the Quilt Barns in Yancey County, NC and the trails they can go on to explore these works of art.
      I will promote your business, Wish Upon a Star for sure! I love writing about businesses that were started by local's doing things they love and sharing their passion with our community. I have heard that quilting has become very popular again and I'd like to share this with my subscribers. We have over 9400 of them right now. Hope they will visit your shop and begin quilting.
      Best regards,
      Carol Lynn
      The Beltline Buzz

      • Cathy

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate you promoting Wish Upon A Quilt! Please give me a call if you need more information. 919-782-6363.


    • Gina Samuels

      Hi there

      I love to sit and sew but with a household to look after and my 85 year old mum as well. My youngest daughter has had cancer twice but she is better now. I love to look at the fabrics and touch their beautiful colours and patterns. I can understand your love of people, quilts, sewing and the joy it all brings to people. I love being creative and although I work at the local hospital 4 days a week, I just yearn to stay home and sew up a storm..... quilting is the most satisfying pass time I have ever done..... love sharing with you - you don't get old when you have fabric and quilts to create, life is too short and my stash is too big - but it is great and I love it xxxxx

    • Rosalie Fegan
      Rosalie Fegan June 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      We came to Raleigh last week to visit friends. Since I retired last June I have been quilting up a storm, mostly for friends and family. I am always looking for new sources for fabric. I "googled" Raleigh quilt shops and you came up. My husband drove me and patiently waited as I looked at everything. In speaking to the gals we found out that 2of them came from very close to where I live in NY state. I hope to get back there in person next summer . I owned a quilt/ needlework shop for 11 years before I went back to teaching. It was a wonderful time in my life when I made wonderful friends. Keep up the good work.

    • mab

      Thank you for a wonderful story. Customers can tell when an owner enjoys their shop, and customers. It makes a difference in who you enjoy doing business with! I'll remember your joyful story and will be in NC!

    • Terry Palardy

      I was a teacher for thirty years, and quilted during summer vacations. When i had to take early retirement due to MS (multiple sclerosis) and melanoma, I grieved the loss of companionship. Our local 5 and 10 had closed a year or so before, and so I opened a fabric/quilt shop, with a business plan that held a single word in the center: HAPPY. I wanted to help locals find fabric and notions locally again. Your story and mine tell of parallel stresses and resolutions. I'm happy to read yours, and invite you to check mine :)

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