FARMINGTON – After 37 years, the family-operated Fabric Inn on Wilton Road will close its doors for good on the last day of this year.
Shop owner Cheryl Lewis of Industry has worked at the shop that sells sewing machines and sewing supplies and holds quilting classes for 32 years. Her mother and father, Arden and Martin Priebe opened Fabric Inn in 1976. The couple and Lewis’ sister, Valarie Swain, ran the shop for the first years.
“I started working here when I was 15,” Lewis said. “I’d get off the bus and go to work.” Five years later, she took over management. This fall Lewis decided to call it quits as a business owner but will continue working in fabric arts at the Fabric Garden in Madison.
The offer of a job in what she loves to do without the bookkeeping hassle proved too tempting for Lewis and, more importantly, will allow her to spend more time with her family.
There have been many changes over the more than three decades the shop has been open. The Fabric Inn started in a very small space at its current location of 413 Wilton Road selling fabrics, basic notions and patterns.
As the only sewing specialty store around, the business grew with a growing customer demand and so did its space requirements. At one time, Fabric Inn occupied the entire building that currently houses three businesses. Times changed though, and Lewis adjusted with the times.
In the first years, customers were keen on sewing their clothes and clamored for the latest pattern available. That trend of making your own clothes seemed to go out of style for a portion of the next sewing generation. When Walmart opened up just down the road, much of the notions, patterns and some fabrics were offered at a much cheaper price that Lewis said she couldn’t possibly match.
Instead, she adapted her business to focus on the growing quilting popularity and she continued to specialize in selling sewing machines. With each machine sold, Lewis offered the new owner a free lesson. Classes on quilting have been held twice a week at the shop by Betsy Plummer for years. Her customers appreciated the specialized service and remained loyal by patronizing the Fabric Inn.
As the shop’s focus changed, its space requirement shrunk in size. Other businesses, Northland Custom Flooring and Wears & Wares, a consignment shop, moved in on either side of the Fabric Inn. No longer the only fabric store in the area, besides Walmart, there’s Imelda’s in New Sharon and Pins & Needles in downtown Farmington. Despite that competition, Lewis had found her niche that worked for many years until she decided it was time to downsize the amount of time she spends working.
She will miss her customers though. “It’s very bittersweet,” Lewis said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. There are no regrets.”
Lewis is planning a happy ending to her shop’s closing on Dec. 31. She hopes customers will stop by with the bonus of a store closing sale currently going on. Find out more here. Once closed by Jan. 1, the retail space will be open for another business possibility.