The Lady Bugz Quilt Company opened at 302 West Main Street last month, Zentmeyer said, not just to meet her own needs, but the sewing needs of the many quilters in the area, as well.
Montrose has been without a quilt store for more than three years, she said, and the last one, coincidentally, was in the same building, which Zentmeyer and her husband happen to own. Some people warned the women against opening a store that appeals to a niche market in a bad economy, but Zentmeyer said she had the full support of her husband Todd, and that she and Thaute are passionate about quilting.
“There are a lot of quilters in this area, with three quilters' guilds, and we have the Black Canyon Quilt Show in July,” she said.
But when getting supplies becomes a chore, it takes some of the enjoyment out of the ancient art form, Zentmeyer said. Hotchkiss has a quilting store, as do Grand Junction and Durango, but that’s about it for the area, she said, with nothing in Gunnison.
“It’s needed,” she said. “You can’t even buy a spool of thread in Gunnison, even at Walmart.”
But there’s plenty of thread at Lady Bugz, which is overflowing with neatly stacked bolts of material, all 100 percent cotton, Zentmeyer said.
“Business has been great, and we just got back from an international quilting market in Salt Lake City, looking at new lines of fabric and other new stuff,” she said.
Zentmeyer and Thaute plan to start teaching quilting classes in June, and are currently working out a schedule. To learn more, call 249-1600 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will offer day and night classes, from beginner to more advanced,” Zentmeyer said. “And Kristi is awesome at teaching kids.”
The store will also have drop-in hours so quilters can come in for advice and help with whatever they are working on, she said.
Neither Zentmeyer or Thaute has ever been in business or even worked in retail, Zentmeyer said; it was their shared passion for quilting that prompted their decision.
As quilt shops go, theirs is fairly small, Zentmeyer said, even though the shop covers several rooms, with bolts of colorful print and solid material on every wall. The store started out with 750 bolts when it opened April 26 and now has between 900 and 1,000 bolts, she said, with more being added each week.
“We’re small, but with a good variety of material,” Zentmeyer said. “Some people just want a small amount, and we have fabrics that appeal to all tastes and styles. I think it will take off.”
Most of Lady Bugz customers have heard about the store by word of mouth, Zentmeyer said, and, with plenty of quilters who need supplies, she expects the word to spread.
There are many ways to quilt, from making intricate designs with a high-tech sewing machine to simply stitching by hand. Many quilters use a combination of machine and hand-quilting, Zentmeyer said.
But whether machine stitched or hand-sewn, Zentmeyer said that for her, quilting is all about tradition, a connection to the past, a chance to create a family heirloom.
“It’s an art form that’s been going on a long time, and it’s also useful,” she said.