This month's Star Store goes to The Intrepid Thread shop. This lovely shop is owned and operated by Julie Dueck of the lovely Bay Area in California. Julie is mom (to 2 teenagers), wife (to a brilliant engineer building an airplane in their garage), teacher (she home-schools her 9th grader) and woman in charge (been in business for a lil over 1 1/2 years). WOW!
So Julie, give us a little background about yourself...
I have been married for 5 1/2 yrs to the most wonderful man. I was born here in the Bay Area, California where I currently live but grew up in Oregon. I have lived in Europe and all over the US because I was an Army wife for 10 yrs. I love to read, Urban Fantasy mostly. My guilty pleasure is watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette it is embarrassing to admit but I am a hopeless romantic and I am always certain that they will find true love.
1. Tell us how Intrepid Thread got started. Why? When? Where? Who?
I guess the shop kind of came about backwards. I had just participated in the Craft Hope sale for Haiti, after the Earthquake. Craft Hope gets crafters together to raise funds for certain disaster relief efforts. A friend of mine, Tracey Jacobson of Tracey Jay Quilts, had the idea to start a permanent shop on Etsy to raise funds for a charity in Haiti called Heartline Ministries. Heartline has a neonatal and birthing center for impoverished women in Haiti.. They also teach sewing and crafting skills to help the women earn a living. I wanted to help Tracey, and for a month or two I tried to sew items to sell in the shop but I am not very prolific. I can take days just to pick fabrics for a project and no amount of beating myself up about it can get me to move faster. I didn’t feel like I was doing much good and I was discouraged. I am so passionate about what Heartline does and I really wanted to make a difference.
In the mean time, I had been lamenting to my husband about the lack of quilt shops carrying contemporary fabrics in our area and the poor service I had received in one or two of the shops that did exist. I told him all of the things I would do differently if it was my shop. He told me, for about 6 months straight, that I needed to open my own shop.
These two situations came together and I realized if I could earn a profit by selling fabric, all of the collections that I love together in one place, then I could do a lot more to support Heartline than I could by sewing.
So we took our tax refund and got started. Now we are fortunate to be able to support more than one charity with our profits.
Oh that is a hard one… I would say contemporary romantic. There are a few contemporary collections that I think are a little too harsh for my taste so you might not find them in my shop. I am getting to the point where I am refining my taste and editing to get down to what I consider the perfect blend.
3. Boast your bolts… what is your current bolt count?
A little over 1000 bolts, which is pretty good considering we are in a 1500 square foot house with no basement and a garage full of airplane. We are looking for a commercial shop space right now so that we are able to expand.
4. What goes into fabric selection? What do you consider and how much of a role does personal taste play?
Honestly, I pick what I love. If it is in the shop it is because I think it is beautiful. I also take in to account what I hear my customers asking for over and over again. I rarely order a collection just because it is a designer that always sells or because of hype.
5. Social media is one of the biggest tools out there right now… How do you incorporate it on a daily basis and how have you seen that impact your business?
I admit to being a little slow to jump on the social media train in my personal life but as soon as I started thinking about opening the shop it was on my mind and I was learning all I could about it. I had a blog for over a year before I opened the shop and now the shop has a blog, Twitter, and a Facebook page. One of the things I love most about Twitter is talking to other sewists that love fabric as much as I do. I always say I am a “Fabric Fangirl”.
The first thing that happens when you make a purchase from the shop is an email is generated to let me know that a purchase was made. I have multiple internet ready devices around including a laptop an iPad, so unless I am sleeping, I am pretty much in touch with what is going on with the shop. If it is before noon, most of the time, the order will get cut wrapped and shipped the same day. I have many international customers and sometimes wake up to quite a few orders. Most people receive their packages domestically within three business days. Fast service is important to me when I am the purchaser so I want my clients to enjoy that from our shop.
7. You mentioned in your mini-bio that you home-school a 9th grader? Now that's impressive! How do you balance a thriving business and family time?
Yes, we are starting High School this year. I say we because I feel like I am back in school with her. Fortunately my daughter is highly motivated and self directed. I just have to get her started on a path and she can run with it. During the school year I have to be very structured. I don't require a lot of sleep and rarely sleep more than 6 hrs. I start working right when I get up between 5 AM and 6 AM usually have most orders cut by 10 AM. I work with Erin on school until about 1 PM then get any last minute orders cut and everything wrapped and ready to ship. I always say my greatest organization tool is the kitchen timer. No one (at least no one I know) likes to do house work, I just set my timer for 15 minutes twice a day and clean for those 15 minutes. You would be surprised how much can be done in a small amount of time if you do it every day.
8. Tell us about your staff.
I like to say I am a one woman show. In truth my husband usually takes the packages to the post office for me (I don’t have them picked up because our postman comes at odd hours). He is also my number one cheerleader and never lets me quit when I get discouraged. My mother (a bookkeeper) does my accounting and both of my children upload fabrics to the online shop for me so I can concentrate cutting and wrapping orders. If I am having a big sale sometimes a friend will come over and help get the packages wrapped and ready for shipping. So when I say I love my staff, I mean it! I am looking for an assistant right now, as well.
9. If you didn’t run a successful fabric shop what would be your dream job?
I am very fortunate that I have had a chance to work at both of my dream jobs. This one honestly is my biggest dream since I started sewing at age 6 and have always loved fabric. For ten years I got to do my other dream job… I was a network administrator and basically the go to person for all technical issues in a college. I am such a computer geek and I had so much fun. The best part of that job, and this one, was/is being able to provide excellent customer service and really make a difference in someone’s day.
10. You carry a veriaty of Art Gallery Fabrics products. Can you tell our readers what do you like about our products? What are your hot sellers from AGF right now?
Of course the first thing everyone thinks of is how amazingly soft they are. The quality is second to none. I love the colors and how your designers always push the envelope with design and fashion. My hottest sellers are Poetica and LillyBelle right now, as far as collections go, but I can’t keep the Pure Element Solids and Oval Elements on the shelves they just go like hot cakes. I love that I can pull a variety of Elements to go with any new collection to make some truly spectacular bundles.
Everyone that buys your fabrics falls in love with them. Once they have seen it and felt it they always want more. I have a few clients that have standing orders for half yards of any new collection that comes out and a friend that shows up on my doorstep when she knows a shipment has come in.
12. What is your favorite AGF collection so far?
Julie... Thank you so much for sharing with us all these pictures and giving us a look into your shop. We also love that we are better than cake! Yay AGF!!
Ladies and gents, hop on over to The Intrepid Thread and check out her amazing AGF collection and all the good stuff she has in store. Also, follow them, like them and pretty much stalk all they do because Julie really is a "Fabric Fangirl" and has a lot of really cool stuff in store for you guys.