... That is the question.
This weekend I went to Marden's for the very first time ever.
For those of you who are not local, Mardens is a lot like a Marhsalls or a TJ Maxx.
Except there is one big difference.
(Locals know what I am leading up to...)
The difference between a Mardens and a TJ Maxx-ish type place is that Mardens sells fabrics.
And not the cheap stuff that they sell at certain big box stores who shall remain nameless.
Mardens sells first quality fabrics from companies like Westminster, Free Spirit, Moda, you name it.
Only they sell their fabric much cheaper than my own establishment does.
As in, $2.99 a yard for designers like Denyse Schmidt, Heather Ross, Kaffe Fassett, Anna Maria Horner, Phillip Jacobs, Martha Negley and more.
Now, before you go getting all jazzed you should know a few things:
1) Sorry, they don't sell fabric on the internet. (But we do!)
2) Most of the stuff there is a few years old...which is how it ended up at Mardens in the first place. Some of the stuff I saw this weekend was easily five years old. (Most of the stuff in our store is a year or two old... once it gets much older than that we also sell it at a discount.)
3) You won't be finding any complete designer lines or Amy Butler there, either. Most of the fabrics there are there for a reason. Most. (It goes without saying that our store puts the FAB into fabric.)
Having said all of those things, if you are willing to put in the time, going to Mardens is a lot like flea marketing. You've got to search and search and search through piles of stuff to find that one little treasure you want. And when you do, and you find it for $2.99 a yard, you've got yourself a nice little experience.
Now, you may be asking yourself, why is she telling me about a place that sells fabric for $2.99 a yard when she owns a fabric store that sells practically the exact same thing for $9.99 a yard?
Well, let me tell you.
The answer is simple.
I love fabric.
I can't buy fabric wholesale for $2.99 a yard, so yeah, I get a little jazzed when I see an old Kaffe or a Katie Jump Rope or a Flea Market Fancy for cheap. Not the entire lines, and not even the best fabrics from the lines, but the old bolt here or there that makes you smile.
Now, I realize that other independent store-owners may be reading this and they may not be too happy with me right now.
I can hear these shop owners saying "Well I bet she wouldn't want a Mardens opening up in the same town as her shop."
But the truth is, I have had another shop open its doors literally five minutes away from mine.
A shop that was able to offer discounts on fabric that I could not.
And that was a terrifying experience.
But guess what?
It all turned out okay.
It forced us to be more creative, more competitive and more available.
And over time, I have realized that having another shop so close to my own was actually a good development, because if there's one thing people love more than a town with one quilt shop, it's a town with two quilt shops.
So what I would like to say is that I will never, ever give a customer a hard time for buying fabric from Mardens, because I buy fabric from Mardens.
And in this economy, from a completely capitalist-yet-optimist point of view, if a customer buys fabric at a discounted price, it may not be entirely bad for me, either.
If you save a little money at Mardens (or any other fabric store, for that matter) then maybe that means you saved enough to take a class with me.
Or maybe you will supplement what you find at another shop with what you find at my shop.
Or maybe it just means that you can afford to take up quilting as a hobby in the first place, and because of that you wander into my shop and see how fabulous we are, and by then you've tasted the Kool-Aid, so maybe when times get better you will be able to buy more fabric from me.
No shop can be everything to everybody.
Some places sell fabric cheap and some places sell fabric for not-so cheap, but we all provide our own different experiences to the customer.
In other words, it is Mardens' job to provide fabric for cheap and it is my job to provide fabric that is fabulous.
Sometimes the two worlds collide.
As an independent store I may not be able to offer a deep, deep discount... (Because of our overhead, I can't even offer my fabrics for the same cost as an internet-only shop) but I can offer creativity, inspiration, knowledge and friendliness in a comfy, positive, and (hopefully) beautiful setting.
So, if that is the kind of experience you are looking for, then give me a shout.
And if you aren't looking for that kind of experience this time around, then you have my blessing to go forth and shop elsewhere.
(And if you see a great deal, let me in on it!!!)
Okay, stepping off of soap-box now.
See you again soon!
If you are an independent shop owner, I sincerely hope you will still talk to me after this post.
Believe me, I understand all sides of this issue. As Popeye so eloquently put it: I yam what I yam.