After 21 years, Calico and Cotton closes

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OCEAN CITY ---­­­­ Filled with fabric, cloth and other homey textiles – calico, cotton and otherwise – the Asbury Avenue shop was much more than a place where everyone knew your name.

For a small army of crafting enthusiasts, the crew at Calico and Cotton was family. Like the patchwork quilts they lovingly stitched together, they came from all walks of life, and indulging a shared passion, gathered daily at 715 Asbury Avenue. They would stitch to their hearts desire, sharing fabrics, ideas and patterns.

From the simple to the complex, there wasn’t a problem that couldn’t be solved, whether it involved a dropped stitch, a funky zipper, a busted button or a crying baby. Someone knew how to fix it, and they were more than happy to help.

So when the beloved shop - bursting at the seams with a passion for crafts and friendship ñ closed its doors after 21 years last month, more than a few tears were shed.

The faithful gathered on the last day to reminisce.

 

“It was a very social place, a happy place to work,” said Bea Minor, who wore many hats at the shop. She owned the store for two years, managed the shop and worked as a sales clerk and teacher. “Women would come in with the love of something they enjoyed. No one was ever in a hurry. I loved working here; I looked forward to coming in every day.

“I’m in my 70s and I could talk to a 19-year-old, there was no age in quilting,” she said. “We all had that love, one generation to the next. Quilters are unique; this was not the kind of shop where people strolled in, it was a destination shop. Women will travel for miles to go to a quilt shop.

“Each store is unique; over time they develop a personality. The fabrics are different in different parts of the country. A fabric store is warm and welcoming; a community of women who share the love of quilting.”

It was the happening spot on Superbowl Sunday, but there wasn’t a television to be found. Quilters wanted nothing to do with the pigskin.

“We called it the ‘stitch and bitch’ session,” said Debbie Lombardozi, who worked at the shop for six years. “We had one every Wednesday night. We were here during the big football games, it was a blast.”

Debbie Booth founded the shop in 1990.

“There was a big revival of quilting, it became very popular and Debbie was a quilter,” said Minor. Booth rode the wave; the shop blossomed. “Debbie wanted her own shop, she created something wonderful.”

Women flocked to the shop. Terry Calvi became the second owner; Minor bought it from Calvi.

“She wanted to sell, I didn’t want it to close,” she said. “I loved the shop.”

Over time, Minor discovered that she liked to work in the store more than she liked owning it.

“I did not like the business end, I’m a people person, I wanted to be with the quilters, not the books and bills,” she said. Holly Flanders bought the shop, and Minor managed it.

“We all cared for one another, it was more than fabric,” she said. Their lives entwined, they shared joys and sorrow. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago, I don’t know what I would have done without my quilting friends and customers. They were very much a part of my survival. They made a quilt for me! No one has any idea how much this place has mean to all of us over the years.”

Minor said she most loved teaching.

“To see the joy, share my passion,” she said. One of her students, Kathy Lavin, became a regular. “We went through all her pregnancies, watched the children grow up.”

“They made me baby quilts when my girls were born,” said Lavin. “They’re all so nice and thoughtful, it’s the kind of place it was.

“It was a gathering place, everyone smiling when you came in,” said Lavin. “Sometimes I went in just to talk. It’s so sad to see it close. It was a kindred experience, lots of gentle souls, women with the same interest.

“Pat Kline went above and beyond, she knew so much about quilting, so many tricks that made it interesting,” she said. “It was a lot about friendships, and that’s what I’ll miss the most. We’d chit chat, talk about all kinds of things. We shared projects and ideas, had a ‘show and tell.’ There was so much support; because of these women I was able to take my skills to a whole new level. I learning quilting, appliqué and embroidery, skills past down from one generation to another.”

Sharing and caring, Lavin said, sometimes involved hot tea and strawberry shortcake.

“It was a nice camaraderie. I feel lucky and blessed to have learned so much from these wonderful women. I sucked up as much as I could and I loved every minute of it.

Dottie Grottigreto wore black on the last day.

“People have been coming in, dressed in black, to pay their respects,” said Lombardozi.

“We would bring snacks, sit and stitch and solve the world’s problems,” said Debbie MacNeill.

“This was my dream retirement,” said Ronnie Sauerbrey. “We would come in and say ‘would you help me?’ Someone had an idea, an alternative. We helped each other.”

“I was at a national quilt show in Pennsylvania not long ago and people were talking about it,” she said. “It’s a very special store. I retired so many times and kept coming back, this time there was no coming back, sadly.”

The store, she said, became a victim of tough economic times and enhanced technology. Cotton prices skyrocketed; with fabric costing upwards of $15 per yard, it became and expensive hobby, and one that too many people began to indulge on the Internet.

“We had a very loyal following, but they only had so much money to spend on their hobby,” she said. Fabric and supplies for a quilt topped $200.

“Some people are buying fabric on line, I want to see it, feel it, touch it,” said Lynn Warren. It’s an experience, not something you point and click your way through. “I want to discuss it with someone, share my excitement or ask a question.”

“People used to buy what they liked, we had our heyday in the ’90s,” said Lombardozi. “Now they are buying only what they need. We saw a big decline, people still want to quilt, but they have to work and they can’t afford to do it as much.”

“UFO Nights” were very popular, Lombardozi said.

“You brought in your unfinished objects, and someone would help you,” she said. “If you ran out of fabric, someone had it. We all shared our fabrics.”

“It was a warm and friendly place, people called it their happy place,” said Lombardozi. “Even people who don’t quilt loved to come in. We hardly ever had a man in here. It was a little getaway for the women in the center of town. You came in, forgot about things and left feeling energized. There were no problems in here, just solutions. It was all about being happy.

“We watched people’s children grow up,” she said. “We had quilt retreats. It was the heart and soul. People gravitated here. You have no idea how many people were touched by this shop. When we needed a fabric fix, this is where we would go.”

“I got so much joy out of giving advice, helping people turn a piece of fabric into something very special,” said Minor. “I loved sharing my love of quilting.”


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