A mainstay of downtown Hoopeston recently closed its doors.
After 40 years in business in Hoopeston, The Sewing Boutique has closed.
Owners Vera Keller and Joyce Stock announced plans to close last year and recently closed their doors after presenting a going-out-of-business-sale for the last several months.
The owners donated the building to the Save the Lorraine Foundation. The Foundation will announce plans for the building in the near future.
Prior to closing, Keller and Stock were interviewed by The Chronicle and asked to discuss their 40 years in business.
Keller and Stock were asked to recall how they got “The Sewing Boutique” got its start.
Keller recalls that it all started when the Spurgeon Department store decided to no longer carry fabrics and sewing supplies. LaVawn Forshier thought Hoopeston needed a fabric store and thought Keller would be just the one to make it go. In order to make the risks a little less risky, Keller said it seemed logical to have three partners instead of two, so Keller asked Joyce Stock if she would like to be a part of the venture.
Stock recalls that she was teaching Home Economics at Cissna Park High School when she received a visit from a fellow Home Economics teacher, Vera Keller, who was teaching at Wellington at the time.
Stock said Keller asked her if she would be interested in becoming a partner with her and Forshier in opening a fabric shop in Hoopeston.
“And that is how our adventure began,” Stock said.
This was in the summer of 1980. Plans were made and a location was found. The Sewing Boutique opened the Friday after Thanksgiving 1980 in a small building west of the railroad tracks on West Penn. The building is no longer standing.
Stock recalls that many people made their own clothes at the time The Sewing Boutique was opened, so they carried fashion fabrics as well as quilting fabrics. They also felt that selling sewing machines would compliment those fabric sales.
The Sewing Boutique soon outgrew the small building and 222 E. Main St. became its new home in October 1983. Keller and Stock have seen many changes over the years. Forshier soon retired and moved to Florida. In 1984, Keller retired from teaching and spent her time at the store. Stock continued to teach for a few more years and did weekend duty.
The fall they opened the store coincided with the introduction of the first computer sewing machine to the world. Keller and Stock had already decided they wanted to sell sewing machines and selected the Husqvarna Viking Brand just in time to get in on the beginning of all this new technology.
Keller said machine embroidery has been a very important part of their business and said it is fun to watch customer’s reactions when they look over and see a machine stitching away while the machine owner is somewhere else in the store.
She said sewing machines have continued to evolve through the years and become more and more independent.
“The machine’s, now, you just turn on and you go do the laundry while it’s sewing,” Keller said.
Stock and Keller have lived through many different fashions, quilting and crafting trends during their 40 years in business. There will always be something new and exciting, whether it be fabric, notions or sewing machines. The pair feels that these ever-shifting trends kept them fresh and up-to-date and that is what customer want.
Stock said that many things have changed since they first opened The Sewing Boutique 40 years ago. She recalls there were many more retail shops in downtown Hoopeston when they first opened the store there. These included men’s and women’s clothing stores, a shoe store, a Ben Franklin-type store, Spurgeon’s, Lester’s Drugs and Sheridans, the only one of these businesses still open. Stock said the closure of most of these businesses has changed the complexion of the downtown area.
Stock said that The Sewing Boutique’s business has also changed over the years. She said their customer base has gotten older and are not sewing as much as any more and younger people have not filled in the gap thus the need for the shop is not as great as it used to be.
Stock said that when they opened The Sewing Boutique many customers were still sewing their own clothes for economic reasons. She that has definitely changed over the years as it has become more cost effective to just buy clothes rather than sew them at home.
Nowadays, Stock said, people who sew clothes are generally doing it as a special occasion.
“If you make something then it’s a special occasion, not the every day kind of stuff,” she said.
Keller added that many customers today prefer to focus on embellishing existing clothing through sewing techniques like embroidery.
Keller said the business drew in customers from a 60-70 mile radius and drawing some from as far north as Chicago.
Keller and Stock were both teachers before opening their business and remained teachers through The Sewing Boutique even after they retired.
Stock said she and Keller taught many classes through The Sewing Boutique during their 40 years in business. Keller taught Serger and Embroidery classes while Stock taught Keep America Sewing classes each month along with a many classes designed for children.
Keller said that it was in this capacity that both have formed long-time friendships with their customers. And missing the customers will be the hard part of the closure of this 40-year adventure. Stock echoed this feeling.
“We have made many friends along the way and these friendships will not be forgotten,” Stock said. “It is the people we will miss as we move on to another era in our lives. It was a good ride!”
Asked what memories stand out from her time with the shop, Keller said the customers stand out.
“I remember the customers,” she said. “I remember their husbands and their children, and how they’d go to Florida in this month and that month.
Stock said she treasured the memories of the trips she and Keller were able to take together through their business.
The pair were able to travel the world due to their business relationship with Husqvarna.
Stock said they traveled to Sweden once to visit the Husqvarna Viking headquarters.
Beyond the trip to Sweden, the pair were also able to travel to Cancun along with taking cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean.
Keller said the trips were rewards for being a successful Husqvarna Viking dealer.
“If you’re a good dealer, you get those little perks,” she said.
Asked what prompted them to move on after 40 years in the business, Keller and Stock both cited their age as the primary motivation.
Keller, who is 88, and Stock, who is 80, said they decided, after 40 years, it was time to close the shop.
“We decided we’re tired,” Stock said. “That’s a big share of it.”
Stock said another reason was that their clientele has decreased in recent years since many younger people aren’t taking up sewing like they did in previous generations.
As for their plans for the future, Keller said she plans on finishing some of her unfinished projects and enjoy retirement.
“I’m going to go to bed and if I wake up at 4:30 that’s okay and if I wake up at 8:30 that’s okay,” she said.
Stock said she just looks forward to having more personal time.
“Just having more of your time,” she said. “Doing what you want to do when you want to do it.”