Phyllis McGuire | View From the Village: Quilt shop owner has the community covered

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Gloomy statistics and stories about small businesses failing in their first and second year did not deter quilting enthusiast Karen Jolin from filling a void created when Tala's Quilting Shop in North Adams closed.

Jolin opened Karen's Quilting Corner at 857 Cold Spring Road, Williamstown, in July 2013, and several months later shut the door behind her for the last time.

It was not a sad incident but ushered in a new beginning — Jolin was relocating her business to 723 Cold Spring Road.

"It is nicer and larger, exactly what I wanted from the start, but it wasn't available then," said Jolin, a Williamstown resident who holds down a job in the controller's office of Williams College.

Driving on Route 7 to Karen's Quilting Corner, I found it was not necessary to look for the address. When colorful barn quilts, Kaleidoscope and Hunter's Star came into sight, I knew I had arrived at my destination.

At the shop, I feasted on "eye candy." Shelves were filled with high-quality fabrics in a wide assortment of colors. Unique handcrafted quilts were affixed to walls.

"A quilt can be anything you want it to be," she said.

A traditional Santa Claus quilt, as well as an alphabet baby quilt, displayed in the shop could be used as cozy bedcovers or as wall hangings in a private home, I thought.

Wendy Zieba, of North Adams, was purchasing fabric to make a three-dimensional quilt (a quilt that gives the illusion of depth) as a wedding present.

"I've been coming here since it opened," Zieba said. "I'm not an expert, but I've made quilts and jackets. Depending on what I am making, I can finish a project in a weekend, or it can take all winter."

The shop's manager, Marlene Bottesi, said that although most of the shop's customers are quilters, some people buy fabrics for other purposes.

"One mother buys fabric to sew aprons and dresses for her daughter," she said.

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Besides shopping for quilting essentials, people come to the shop to attend classes designed for people of all levels of sewing experience. A group aptly called The Lunch Bunch brings their lunch or orders out and stays for the day, working on their individual projects. A Wool Club also meets at the shop. The Charity Sewing group creates quilts to donate to hospitals.

Beyond the walls of Karen's Quilting Corner, Jolin and her staff offer the shop's merchandise at quilt shows, including as many handcrafted quilts as space allows.

"Basically, we sell what we sell in the store," Jolin said.

"Everyone has a story to tell, whether they started quilting with their grandparents or mothers or are learning to quilt," she said.

Jolin and her staff are preparing to participate in the 18th Massachusetts Quilt Shop Hop. This year, the theme is Neighborhood Block Party and will run from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20.

"During last year's Shop Hop, we had 500 visitors at Karen's Quilting Corner," Jolin recalled.

Tickets, at $8 each, can be bought at Karen's Quilting Corner. A ticket becomes your passport to all seven shops participating in the Shop Hop.

"It's a weekend of fun, demonstrations, information, unique quilt samples, specials and prizes," she said.

The grand prize is a PFAFF Ambition 62 sewing machine valued at $1,100.

Now in her sixth year as proprietor of Karen's Quilting Corner, Jolin has no regrets.

"It has become easier to balance two jobs. I have the same wonderful staff at the store as at the beginning. We have a steady clientele — lots of townies and people from New York, Vermont and Connecticut. In the spring and fall, we have many international visitors from Israel, Australia and Europe," she said.

"I'm happy I opened the store," she said. "I've met a lot of wonderful people. It's a nice addition to my life and I hope to other people's."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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