Fabric store

The Fairbanks fabric store was growing 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 come in and out, and listening to laughter and stories.

Sewing isn’t just a hobby or 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 meager, but this is Logan’s favorite time of year as she has more time to run sewing classes.

This winter, those bonds with others are bittersweet. The summer visitor activity that sustains the fabric store during the slow months has not materialized due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Logan is unsure how long she can keep the store open.

Logan struggled to make his pay. It laid off at least one employee, cut the hours of other workers and asked for help from the federal government. She qualified for the federal wage protection program money, but was not eligible for local subsidy programs, she said.

Her store is entering its slowest months of the year, January and February. This month’s sales are 37% of what they were last December, and the numbers don’t add up, Logan said. If the store doesn’t generate more revenue, Logan doesn’t see how she can keep the doors open at That Old Sew and Sew. She cried during an interview on Thursday.

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

The prospect of a bankrupt business does not suit Logan, a retired flight attendant who opened That Old Sew and Sew in 2017. She worked at another fabric store – she found out she loved be surrounded by brightly colored fabrics during Fairbanks’ long winters. – and decided she wanted to have her own little fabric store 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 landscaped 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 commissioned a huge mural on the side of the building showing a woman sewing a flowered quilt.

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

Since opening That Old Sew and Sew, Logan has said sales have exceeded his targets every year. The highlight was the summer of 2019, when Logan needed eight employees. 2020 was supposed to be the year Logan could start making a salary from the company.

“We thought that whatever we put in that financially and emotionally, that we would get a return on our investment,” Logan said.

Instead, the coronavirus has arrived, and 2020 has been That Old Sew and Sew’s toughest year.

“It was an emotional roller coaster. Financially it has been a nightmare, ”Logan said.

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

She said she won’t force customers to wear face masks, but she does offer special mask hours, online shopping, curbside pickup, door-to-door delivery and appointment shopping. – even on days when the store would normally be closed. It has strengthened its website, www.thatoldsewandsew.com.

If customers want store workers to mask themselves, Logan said they will.

“As a staff, we will do whatever is necessary to make our customers feel comfortable,” she said.

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

Another challenge during the pandemic was getting new products to the shelves.

Logan said the pandemic has caused more people to sew, but factories are behind in filling orders. This makes the task particularly difficult for companies like his that are far from supply centers.

“If you can capitalize on it, this is a phenomenal time. If you’re in our situation, it’s difficult, ”said Logan. “You can’t stay long with what people have seen. If you don’t have that turnover, that “look at what’s new and what’s new,” people are going to stop coming. “

Logan said it would have closed in August without a very understanding owner. 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 about offering sewing lessons virtually. The stress of keeping the store afloat caused health problems.

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

She keeps her regrets at bay thinking about all the new friends the store has brought into her life.

“If I hadn’t done this, as painful as it was last year, I wouldn’t have exchanged any of these 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 to get my life back.

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