Fabric store

The Fairbanks fabric store was expanding its business. And then the pandemic arrived | Local News

One of Amy Logan’s earliest memories is lying under a quilt frame, made by her grandfather, watching the needles go in and out and listening to laughter and stories.

Sewing isn’t just a hobby or a business for Logan, owner of That Old Sew and Sew, a fabric store in downtown Fairbanks. It’s a way to bring people together and connect. The winter months for That Old Sew and Sew are usually pretty lean, but it’s Logan’s favorite time of year because she has more time to lead sewing classes.

This winter, those connections with others are bittersweet. The summer visitor activity that sustains the fabric store during the quieter months hasn’t materialized due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Logan isn’t sure how long she’ll be able to keep the store open.

Logan had trouble making payroll. She laid off at least one employee, cut the hours of other workers and asked for help from the federal government. She qualified to receive money from the federal Payroll Protection Program, but did not qualify for local grant programs, she said.

His store is entering its quietest months of the year, January and February. Sales this month are 37% of what they were last December, and the numbers don’t add up, Logan said. If the store isn’t generating more revenue, Logan can’t see how she can keep the doors open at That Old Sew and Sew. She cried during an interview Thursday.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Logan said. “I see other businesses, and they’re closing, and there, but for the grace of God, I’m going.”

The prospect of a bankrupt business doesn’t sit well with Logan, a retired flight attendant who opened That Old Sew and Sew in 2017. She worked at another fabric store – she found she liked to be surrounded by brightly colored fabrics during the long Fairbanks winters. — and decided she wanted to have her own little fabric shop downtown.

She moved into the small storefront at the corner of Second Avenue and Barnette Street that had housed the fur factory for years and set up the place with the help of her husband and friends. Logan felt welcomed and supported by other downtown businesses. When she moved to a larger location a few blocks east, she had a huge mural painted on the side of the building showing a woman sewing a flowery quilt.

In June, Logan moved the store to a third, even larger location at 634 Fifth Ave.

Since opening That Old Sew and Sew, Logan said sales have exceeded his goals every year. The high point was the summer of 2019 when Logan needed eight employees. 2020 was supposed to be the year Logan could start drawing a paycheck from the company.

“We believed that everything we invested financially and emotionally, we would get a return on investment,” Logan said.

Instead, the coronavirus happened and 2020 was That Old Sew and Sew’s toughest year.

“It’s been a roller coaster emotionally. Financially it’s been a nightmare,” Logan said.

Like many companies, Logan looked for ways to adapt and innovate.

She said she would not require customers to wear face masks, but would offer special mask hours, online shopping, curbside pickup, home delivery and shopping by appointment. yourself – even on days when the store would normally be closed. She strengthened her website, www.thatoldsewandsew.com.

If customers want store workers to mask up, Logan said they would.

“As staff, we will do whatever it takes to make our customers feel comfortable,” she said.

Some customers found its mask policy too lax, Logan said. Others appreciate the flexibility. The business owner said it was hard to make everyone happy.

Another challenge during the pandemic has been getting new products onto the shelves.

Logan said the pandemic has brought more people into sewing, but factories are behind in filling orders. This makes it particularly difficult for companies like his that are far from supply centers.

“If you can take advantage of it, it’s a phenomenal time. If you’re in our situation, it’s tough,” Logan said. “You can’t go that far with what people have seen. If you don’t have that turnover, that “look at what’s new and look at what’s fresh”, people are going to stop coming in.

Logan said it would have closed in August had it not been for a very understanding landlord. Dealing with so many circumstances beyond her control is the hardest part, she said.

“It’s emotionally devastating,” she said. “I keep looking for the solution.”

Sometimes she thinks of offering sewing lessons virtually. The stress of keeping the store afloat caused health problems.

“I know none of this is my fault, but there’s a difference between fault and responsibility,” Logan said.

She keeps her regrets at bay as she thinks of all the new friends the store has brought into her life.

“If I hadn’t done that, even though the last year was a pain, I wouldn’t have exchanged one of those friendships,” she said.

Some of her customers are struggling financially but come to buy things just to support the store, she said.

Last year, she gave her employees a Christmas party at the Turtle Club. This year, the party will be a potluck at the back of the store.

Logan wiped away his tears.

“I just want to run a quilt store,” she said. “I want to do pretty things. I want to sew with my friends. I want to be able to pay my employees. I want my life back.

Contact editor Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.