Get ready, get set…shop!
Cheney business celebrates community with quilting “Shop Hop” April 25-27
Last updated 4/18/2019 at 4:51pm
Debra Nielson looks right at home settled on a vintage armchair in front of rows of brightly-patterned bolts of cotton and surrounded by crafts of her own making, including mittens made from repurposed sweaters and jewelry crafted from old spoons. And no wonder — she is the sole owner and operator of Ree Creations on 1st Street in Cheney, a small business that features local artists and carefully fashioned handcrafts, along with a surprising selection of fabric tucked into the back corner of her shop.
Neilson has been a one-woman show since she took “a giant leap of faith” in November 2017 and purchased what was then Against The Grain from former owners Deb and Brian Anderson. She kept the same business plan, mixing vintage and vintage-reproduction pieces with hand crafts and supplies, but added more local artists and began selling her own work.
Now, she’s getting involved with the local community with the second-ever Greater Spokane Area Shop Hop, a sewing and quilting event put on by the American Sewing Guild. The Shop Hop, in which a group of fabric and craft stores get together to help customers discover local businesses, proved successful last year and is only getting bigger.
Participants can visit stores in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Deer Park, Cheney and beyond and get a “passport” which allows them to access to discounts, giveaways, door prizes and more.
“Last year was the first one and in three days I had 170 shop hoppers to the store,” Neilson said. “I just got in a whole bunch of new fabrics; it’s a lot of fun.”
Neilson recently met with a fabric vendor in anticipation of the event, which primarily draws quilters from all over the region. She also sells hand-dyed yarns and llama fibers.
The entire event is a collaboration between local businesses, she said, which is vital to a small community. Her goal is to make Cheney more of a destination and encourage residents to patronize local companies.
“After you go to my store and get your stamp, you can go to the Mason Jar or Bene’s and show them and you’ll get a 15 percent discount,” she said. “It’s about working together and having it be not about competition, but supporting each other and being there for each other as a resource.”
Neilson is in the store nearly every day, though she does rely on family and friends who pitch in to help. Her daughter and friend Sonja help her run the shop on weekends and her sister Pam will be cutting fabric and assisting customers during the Shop Hop.
She also has a group of what she calls “hunter-gatherers” — friends who scout out great pieces at yard sales and bring her treasures for her to “Deb-ify.”
The most popular Deb-ified creation is undoubtedly her mittens, which she began making four years ago. “I haven’t read a book since,” she joked. Last year she sold more than 140 pairs of fleece-lined mittens.
“It can be 110 on the asphalt and I still sell mittens,” she said.
She also sells knitted hats, scarves, and headbands and hand-embellished denim jackets and skirts, while her partner artists offer glass work, all-natural soap and antique furniture.
In addition to her regular merchandise, Neilson will take on custom projects, creating keepsake pillows out of heirloom quilts, cutting mittens for families out of loved ones’ sweaters and making jewelry from inherited silverware.
One of the best parts of the upcoming Shop Hop is what Neilson calls “Show and Tell,” when community members revisit the shop to show off the creations they’ve made with fabric from the store.
“My favorite piece is just the customers and the conversations and making that connection,” she said. “I really enjoy that — I never know what’s going to walk through that door.”
The Greater Spokane Area Shop Hop takes place Thursday, April 25, through Saturday April 27. For more information visit http://www.asg-inw.org.
Shannen Talbot can be reached at email@example.com.