One business closes; another to open

As one door closes, another door will open.

That’s more than a philosophy. It is a matter of business as the Gingerbread House in Webster City closed its doors Thursday night at the conclusion of the business day and workers prepare to move its inventory to a new quilt shop in Ellsworth.

“We are in the middle of chaos,” admitted Karen Johnson, who has owned and operated the Gingerbread House at 309 Bank Street for 40 years. Work crews have been clearing out all three floors of the business and cleaning cupboards.

Everything in the shop has been sold and will be transferred to Angela Wirth’s newly-constructed Mended Hearts Quilting and Boutique at 3212 330th St. in Ellsworth. The shop is located one mile east of the junction of Interstate 35 and Highway175.

“We are taking everything down to the walls,” said Johnson. “This is a huge thing.”

The process of moving began when Gingerbread House closed Thursday. The move of its inventory to the new store is scheduled to begin on Aug. 15 and it is expected to take two weeks.

Then on Sept. 4, Mended Hearts Quilting and Boutique will open with the first meeting of the quilt club in its new location, said Wirth.

The Gingerbread House was born when Johnson’s mother Evelyn Kraemer looked down the street and realized that the vacant home of her aunt Adella Crovisier would make a perfect location for a craft shop. Up until that time Johnson had been holding seasonal craft sales in her basement.

“My dad made me buy it with weekly payments,” said Johnson of the business that kept growing and growing.

“We started out with crafts – yarns, stitchery, styrofoam art, latchhook, macrame, corn husk dolls,” said Johnson, listing many of the craft trends throughout the years. “It was just a simple, natural

progression to quilting.”

“We first held classes during the day,” explained Johnson, whose business adapted to an emerging change in society. “When the economy changed and women had to go back to work, we changed from daytime classes to night time. We just evolved the way the world was going.”

Over the years, fabrics and fabric uses have changed, notes Johnson who learned to sew from her mother and grandmother.

“There have been many eras for fabrics, too” explained Johnson of the ever changing trends. “There were jackets and totes. And there were theme fabrics.”

As a quilt shop owner, Johnson was always on the hunt for a diversity of fabrics which would appeal to her customers. She also enjoyed nudging the adventurous client into trying new ideas whether it was a new pattern, a different fabric or a new color palette.

“But you always keep the customer front and foremost,” she said. “You always keep your clients in mind”.

Angela Wirth had been one of Gingerbread House’s customers for many years. After quilting for 11 years, Wirth purchased a long-arm quilting machine and opened her own business. She eventually became the shop quilter for Gingerbread House.

Visiting with Johnson a couple years ago, Wirth made a confession.

“It is my dream to own my own quilt shop,” said Wirth.

“I smiled because she had no idea that I had been thinking about retiring,” said Johnson. “Everything just fell into place. We work very well together so this has been very easy.”

As for future plans, retirement is a strange concept to her, said Johnson. Throughout the years, in addition to operating a business and raising a family, she was active in the 4-H quilt project, the Adopt-A-Quilt program and Pillowcases for Cancer.

“I can’t imagine not being busy. I have to be productive and accomplish something,” said Johnson. “I’m not much of a do-nothing person. Retirement is a word I am familiar with.”

Johnson has pledged her support and business expertise to Wirth as she begins her new business.

“Our friendship is the basis of all this happening,” said Johnson, who believes that bond will continue through this transition and beyond.

“We will continue to support each other,” said Johnson.

Johnson is confident that Gingerbread House customers will be well served by Wirth and Mended Hearts Quilting and Boutique.

The 3,600 square-foot, two-story shop will offer fabric, notions, patterns and gifts on the top floor, explained Wirth. The lower floor, which houses her long-arm quilting machine, includes a classroom for retreats and club. Geothermal heat will warm the shop and the basement’s floor is also heated.

The two-story shop was built with its customers in mind, explained Johnson.

A ramp will provide access to the front and a paved sidewalk provides access to the basement, said Wirth.

“The walkout building is totally handicapped accessible,” said Wirth.

There are still openings for the first retreat at Mended Hearts Quilting and Boutique which will be held on Oct. 17 to 18. The second retreat scheduled on Oct. 24 to 25 is full, said Johnson.

“Nothing is changing except the location and the name,” Johnson said. “I hope to see everyone at Angela’s new shop.”