By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The storefront at 3400 Bloomington Ave. S. housed a beloved fabric store called Glad Creations for 43 years. When the owners retired last year, dedicated employees and customers weren’t willing to give up on their lively, well-established fabric arts community in the heart of the city.
After months of preparation, they have plans for launching the first ever, cooperatively owned and managed fabric store in the U.S. The Quilt Shop Co-op is already 300 members strong, and is reaching out to sewing enthusiasts near and far to become founding members.
Board member Amy Swanson said, “Our membership demographics show zip codes from throughout the Twin Cities and out-state Minnesota. People are passionate about supporting the co-operative small business model, and about supporting fabric arts.”
Become a member
A consumer-owned business relies on many community members investing in a business they care about. A one-time membership share at the Quilt Shop Co-op costs $120. To become a member, mail a check to 3400 Bloomington Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407, or join online at www.quiltshopcoop.com.
Every member makes the same financial commitment, and receives the same benefits from the co-op’s success. Benefits include special member-only events, being asked to influence inventory selection and class topics through periodic member surveys, quarterly member discounts and annual patronage refunds once the shop is profitable, access to the community meeting space, and the satisfaction of supporting a small business in the local community.
Former Glad Creations employee and co-op board member Jennie Baltutis attended a class sponsored by the city of Minneapolis for business owners interested in the co-op model (see side bar). With the help of program consultants, she wrote a business plan for the Quilt Shop Co-op and learned about financing options.
Baltutis said, “I learned that many small businesses are closing because their owners are retiring. We’ve seen a lot of that in the Twin Cities. According to U.S. Small Business Administration data, only 20% of small businesses listed for sale actually sell. Adopting the co-operative business model can keep a business alive well into the future. The fact that a successful fabric store existed in this site for more than 40 years speaks to our customer base. It means that the feasibility study has already been done.”
More than a store
A consumer-owned co-op is much more than a store. An elected board ensures the health of the co-op and represents its members. It seems particularly appropriate for a fabric store because sewing and quilting have deep roots in community.
Board member Amy Swanson said, “Having a co-operative structure allows us to dream big. We’ll have a beautiful store that people can shop in, but maybe one day we’ll also have a mobile sewing lab? People need to learn how to sew and to fix things. The ethos of a co-op says, ‘What is best for your neighborhood, your community?’ With this model, co-op members will have a real voice in asking for what they want and need.”
In order for the Quilt Shop Co-op to secure financing through their lender, Shared Capital Co-operative, they need to have a steady increase in membership.
Board chairman Steve Budas said, “It’s essential that we double our membership in the coming months. In the short term, we are also looking for help with getting the word out to people that a beloved fabric store will live on in South Minneapolis. We have a strong six-person board and our financing application is in the final stages of review.
“In these months before we open, we need to establish social media accounts so that we can reach as many prospective members as possible. Ideally, we’re hoping to find a couple of volunteers willing to work 2-3 hours per week on this.” Email firstname.lastname@example.org, if interested.
Co-op training available
The city of Minneapolis offers a Co-operative Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP) at no cost for participants. The feasibility training is available to new co-operatives, and existing businesses interested in converting to a co-operative model. The program also provides one-on-one technical assistance.
The city believes the co-op model benefits community by:
• Acting as an economic development tool to reduce poverty and promote social cohesion.
• Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in business ownership.
• Supporting innovation, community building, and local investment by encouraging a more collaborative business model.