QUILT TALES

Creative Business Finds Creative Solutions

Quilt, sewing machine repair shop thrives through Covid

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“We were going out of our minds,” Izzy said, reflecting back on when everything had shut down, pretty much without warning, due to COVID-19.

The weather was cold, wet, dreary, and no one was going anywhere. For some reason no one has reasonably explained, toilet paper had flown off shelves that now stood barren, empty of something seemingly totally unrelated to what was happening in the world.

And it happened pretty much without warning. News from Washington downplayed the threat, but administrators in Santa Fe realized the danger was imminent, it was now. And partly because New Mexico has very few critical care resources, the Governor took quick action, and it was done. Boom.

Marsha and Izzy Cowan talk about how this was for them with Be Sew Creative closed, classes canceled, fabric sitting unbought in the bolts stacked on shelves, neatly fold fat-quarters beneath them.

Surprisingly, after the initial shock wore off, the couple, who will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this May, created ways to support their customers. Realizing that they were truly essential to the health and well-being of those who needed their machines cleaned, oiled, and repaired; who needed fabric to make masks and quilts; they established no-contact ways to make all this happen.

Finding a creative and practical approach to having a thriving sewing machine and fabric store in the middle of a pandemic when so many were struggling was built upon a philosophy that had long infused the happy environment of Be Sew Creative.

“I love our customers,” Marsha said, “I want them to feel successful, even if they make just one thing. And we love show and tell.”

Marsha remembers days when they would receive 15 machines in the first hour and a half at the start of the day. It was dramatic and spoke loudly of their customers’ needs. They had placed a receiving truck at the side of the building, near the employee entrance. Owners would write a list of what needed to be done and leave the machine and the list in the truck. Employees would then take the machines inside. And this was happening day after day.

“We had machines lined up everywhere,” she said, looking around, remembering.

People wanted fabric for masks, so they would call the shop and say what colors or patterns they wanted.

“We would get what we had in those colors,” she said, “they would remain in their cars, and we would show them what we had.”

When Marsha and Izzy started Be Sew Creative in 2005, Marsha had been quilting, “well, forever,” she said. She and Izzy had been working at quilting shows around the country.

What makes Be Sew Creative so unique, and what was instrumental in not only surviving but thriving during the Pandemic, was Marsha's and Izzy's ability to employ the unique loves and skills of their staff. Given that their customers were stuck at home, they created an online presence: A website; social media with both Instagram and Facebook; a series of Shop Hop events with other shop owners; and, live and recorded instructional videos.

Every member of the staff participated in some way. Marco filmed the videos and wrangled the live shows. For the holidays, Stephanie showed how to make a tree ornament using fabric. Later, Be Sew Creative started a Tool of the Month Club that included the new tool and the “How to be Successful with it" online event.

The challenges of the Pandemic provided the opportunity for Marsha and Izzy to expand their philosophy that they were essential to the health and well-being of their customers into a new venue. It's safe to say that although they might have initially faced the impacts of the Pandemic by “going out of [their] minds,” their flexibility and willingness to change is what continues to contribute to the enormous success of their business.

Be Sew Creative is located at 1601 E. Lohman Ave. in Las Cruces. It can be contacted at 575-523-2000 or besewcreative.nm@gmail.com. Learn more at besewcreative-nm.com.

 Mia Kalish lives in tiny San Miguel, NM. She began sewing couture clothing at 16, got away from it as life took over, and then became fascinated with the hugeness of quilting about 5 years ago. Her favorite projects are lap and pet quilts. She sews on her Bernina 475QE. Follow her on Instagram @Joe’sRoomQuilts.