WILLIAMSTOWN -- Quilting enthusiast Karen Jolin embraced a challenge for the sake of all local quilters.
Though the Williamstown native had no experience in retail business, she opened a new quilting shop conveniently located to serve the Williamstown quilting community and neighboring areas.
"I wanted to fill the void left when Tala's Quilting Shop in North Adams closed about a year and a half ago," Jolin said. "Then the closest quilting shop to us was 45 minutes away. [My husband] Gary encouraged me to open the store. Our two sons are grown and I had free time."
Located at 857 Cold Spring Rd., Karen's Quilting Corner opened on July 31 without fanfare. (Jolin had not advertised or sent out a press release about the store's opening.)
Before choosing the Cold Spring Road site in the late winter of 2012, Jolin looked in North Adams and other places in Williamstown. "I needed to be close to where I live and work," said Jolin, who holds down a full-time job in Williams College's controller's office. She emphasized that she loves her job and has no desire to leave Williams.
"I think the current location is good because it's on a main road with lots of traffic," she said. "We've had many tourists visit the shop. Luckily we live in an area that has quite a bit going on and draws people from all around."
Jolin is pleased with the support the community has shown.
Karen's Quilting Corner occupies half of the Williamstown Marketplace, which had been vacant for years. "It took us months to clean up the space," Jolin said. "Gary worked hard in renovating the space. He's so handy; he made many of the shelving units."
Jolin maintained a positive attitude as she undertook responsibilities that were new to her. "I put one foot in front of the other - you need stock, [to] find out who the representatives are for the different brands of fabric ... I asked a lot of questions and received advice and help from people who are knowledgeable about running a quilt store. It was definitely a learning experience," the novice business owner said.
The wide assortment of colorful fabrics offered at Karen's Quilting Corner include quality brands such as Northcott, Timeless Treasures, Moda and Island Batik. And Jolin said material she ordered in the spring is still coming in.
Among the other quilting supplies available for sale are patterns, books, and notions - needles, thread, cutting instruments and templates.
Since opening the shop, Jolin has discovered that she is "more of a people person" than she thought she was. "I really enjoy talking with and helping people who come in. I'm also fortunate that the people who work in the shop are very personable and knowledgeable about quilting," she said.
Marlene Bottesi is the manager and takes care of the shop during the week, and Jolin comes in on nights and weekends. There are three part-timers helping out: Jean Donovan and Carol Pilot, who previously worked at Tala's; and Betsy Weiner.
"People are excited about the shop, especially if they were Tala customers," said Bottesi. "I'm having a lot of fun."
In the welcoming atmosphere of the shop, visitors find not only the tangibles needed to create a quilt, but inspiration as well: Sample quilts are draped over upholstered chairs and affixed to walls.
Going beyond the walls of 857 Cold Spring Rd., Karen's Quilting Corner was one of the approximately 20 vendors that sold fabric and other quilting supplies Sept. 15 and 16 at the Quilt Fest in Bennington, Vt., sponsored by the Quiet Valley Quilters Guild in Bennington. "At first, I was hesitant because we had to commit to doing the show even before we opened our doors, but I thought it went well and consider it a success," Jolin said.
"Now we are in the process of scheduling classes and workshops for the fall. We've had a lot of people interested in learning to quilt. We'll build the schedule around what people want."
It was while attending classes and workshops at Tala's in 2001 that Jolin found her wish to quilt fulfilled.
"I always wanted to quilt," said Jolin. "When Tala's opened, I was inspired to get back into sewing and really enjoyed learning to quilt. We still use the quilt I made in the first class. It's a log cabin design."
Over the years Jolin has created many quilts for others to use. "I make quilts for Christmas gifts, wedding gifts, baby gifts and other occasions," she said. "You can make a quilt anything you want or need it to be. There really are no limitations. Every quilt is unique." Jolin has never sold her quilts.
During the past several months, Jolin has learned much about how to run a quilting shop, and is eager to learn more.
"At first I was focused on trying to open the shop to fill the void left in the quilting community when Tala's closed," she said. "Now that we're open, I'm busy learning what I need to do to build a successful business. My plan is to start small and build it slowly. I have a long way to go but hope that the shop is something I can look forward to when I retire."