The Other Side of the Quilt Counter… Confessions of a Serial Starter

Our Guest Blogger series continues today with Janet Lutz, owner of Calico Gals quilt shops in Syracuse and Oswego, New York.

Hi Lazies! I am delighted to talk with you from Blog Land! My name is Janet Lutz and I am the owner of Calico Gals, a beautiful quilt shop and sewing center located in Syracuse, NY. Check it out at

Thanks, Joan, for giving me the
opportunity to “talk shop” with the Lazies!

The Other Side of the Counter
People often ask how Calico Gals came to be. I wonder if owning your own quilt shop is a secret fantasy for most quilters! For me, it was more than a fantasy. For years I dreamed of owning my own store. In fact, I studied retail management in college with the idea to do that very thing. When life got in the way of my vision (marriage, kids, bills, reality!), I wondered if I would ever get back to it. I came to realize that those years of raising a family and working other jobs were just part of the training needed to run my own business.

A Good Starter!
I just love starting things! I have piles of quilt blocks that will probably never turn into anything. Can you relate to that? If you have a lot of UFO’s, forget the stress of unfinished projects and just admit that you are a good starter! Kudos to all of you finishers out there, but I use my starting tendencies to my advantage.

Dream come true.

For example, together with a partner, I started a quilt shop. With more gumption than money, Calico Gals was born. My goal was to create something different for quilters. Every fabric store has a unique selection of items for sale, so I knew we had to focus on other aspects of the retail experience. We went forward with the idea that it was about the people, not the stuff. Even the name, Calico Gals, reflects that concept.

More than a place, it’s the people!

Lots of Starters
So… OK… I started a business. Then what? Well, I wanted to start more things… like classes and a newsletter and clubs and events and one thing leading to another. The problem with being a starter is that you are always leaving something behind. That’s where the people part comes back around. One at a time, as the business grew, employees and teachers, each chosen for their fun-loving people skills and enthusiasm, joined the team. The gals and guys (yes- we have Calico Guys, too!) pick up my scattered pieces and embrace the projects with a passion that often surpasses my own.

Party Gals Kathy and Marcia!

You know what happens next – I start something else! It may seem like a circle, but actually it is more like a continuous journey, constantly changing and growing. Since the beginning of Calico Gals in 2001, the changes have included taking sole ownership of the business; doubling, tripling and then finally moving into a new building and the addition of a second store. How’s that for starting stuff?!

What a great spot! How could I resist opening a second store in this location?

End of a Bolt, Start of Another
Does it seem odd that so far there is no mention of fabric, rulers, patterns, sewing machines and all things wonderfully stitchy in this blog post? Well, of course, Calico Gals has 2 stores full of those goodies – including a healthy selection of all things Lazy! Most shops tout their success based on numbers of bolts on the shelf. A really successful shop will base its success on the number of empty bolts! However customers don’t want to know about the empties and given the constant coming and going of yardage at Calico Gals, I decided to just put it out there. We have a bazillion bolts of beautiful fabric! Now you know!

Kathy again. She’s always jumping in front
of the camera. Good thing she’s so cute!

Any quilter’s trip to wonderful upstate New York can only be enhanced with a visit to Calico Gals in Syracuse or the new baby sister store, Calico Gals Harborview on the edge of Lake Ontario in Oswego. Stop in for a chat with the gals and guys, enjoy a little retail therapy, and surround yourself with the things you love. I might be there or I might be out starting something else!

Off again! The world is full of opportunities, possibilities, and adventures!
See you in New York! -Janet

Thanks Janet! This makes me wonder about the story behind the counter at my local quilt shop.

Be sure to catch up with Janet…if you can…at the Calico Gals website and blog here. And Facebook here.