We all have hopes and dreams. Some of us express hopes of one day writing a book, running a marathon, or opening our own business. And some of us do it. Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie, a mother and daughter team, pieced together their talents and ambitions and followed their dream. In November 2019, they launched their own quilt shop, Bee Quilting & Such, in Munster, Indiana. Ah, the pre-Pandemic innocence of it all.
Martha started making little doll blankets when she was eight years old and has been sewing ever since, even teaching home economics before she and her husband, Jim, started their family. Meghann was a little later to the game, not pursuing sewing in earnest until she had her own family. They both became interested in quilting about a decade ago. Frustrated with the lack of availability of good quilt shop near them, Martha suggested that they open their own and Meghann quickly got on board.
Martha retired from Purdue Calumet where she was the Wellness Coordinator and ran the wellness program for students and staff. Meghann has her own law firm focusing on wills and trusts. Since retiring, Martha has been assisting Meghann with her law practice. With the decision made that they wanted to open a quilt shop, they began squirreling away their profits from the law practice and started planning and researching opening their own business. They eventually found a location that would work well for both them and their shop. They painted, ordered inventory and fixtures and were finally ready to open on November 5, 2019!
A store for modern sewists, they offer fabrics, notions, classes and clubs for all skill levels. You can visit their website here. They have a long arm quilting machine and can help you get that quilt top out of your closet and turn it into your family heirloom. But a visit to their delightful shop reveals their most valuable product is their enthusiasm for their venture. Both Martha and Meghann love coming to work each day. They love teaching the classes, helping customers choose fabric or figure out a pattern. Each day is different, filled with creativity and energy.
Then came March 21, 2020, when Indiana issued a Stay at Home order due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Who plans for a Pandemic??? They closed for two weeks. Never ones to sit idle, they spent that time making samples for the shop and getting their e-commerce site up and running. They also needed to perfect their machine cleaning and repair service process because once the Pandemic hit, it exploded. People were pulling machines out of storage they hadn’t used in years, many wanting to make masks and some using their time at home to tackle their UFOs (Unfinished Objects!) Luckily Martha’s husband, Jim, formally retired and became a Janome-certified repair person. Machines were coming out of the woodwork as people were rediscovering their creative juices. After a couple of weeks, they reopened at limited capacity, mask required. They offer curbside pickup and online ordering to be shipped.
Two women living their dream and surviving the Pandemic. The new business has turned friends into customers and customers into friends. One day Martha was out for a walk in a park near her home when she was approached (socially distanced, of course) by a customer who had purchased a pair of scissors at the shop that she loved and wanted Martha to bring another pair on her next walk so that the happy customer could give them to her sister for her birthday. That is quite the customer service! Both Martha and Meghann are particularly touched by the customers who shared that their very first Pandemic outing was to Bee Quilting & Such.
But I think what they will most remember from this time is the generosity and kindness of their customers. When an old high school classmate of Meghann’s experienced a devastating house fire and lost everything, Meghann wanted to provide quilts for the parents and children. They put out a call to action to their customers to donate blocks. The response was over whelming and they received more blocks than they needed. After completing the quilts for Meghann’s friend’s family, the extra blocks were donated to a local chapter of Sew It Forward, a group of people around the world that gift quilts to families after they have lost their homes and belongings to a fire.
Martha is my granddaughters Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother and Meghann is their aunt. It truly warms my heart that my granddaughters are being raised in the bosom of this creative, resourceful, useful family business. Back in the storeroom there is a deep cart that my granddaughters love to push around and “shop” for goodies. They know where the “treat” bucket is hidden and carefully select a piece of candy each visit. The other day young Emily was spotted dancing with a wire mannequin. And they are always happy to “help” their Pops with his repair work.
Back when they were dreaming about opening their own quilt shop, I doubt the thought of a Pandemic ever entered their minds. Like so many entrepreneurs, they have had to learn survival skills and the ability to adjust to challenges and obstacles. The pioneering example of women who have sewn throughout history may be their guiding spirit. Resiliency and creativity win the day. Congratulations to the owners of the shop for preserving and daring to dream.
C’est la vie.