NEWARK, Del. — Newark has plenty of restaurants, bars and stores of all kinds, but Erin Underwood and her husband, John, felt there was something missing.
“The quilting community was really starved for a quilt shop,” Erin said.
For quilters in the Newark area, she said, the closest store selling fabric, tools and supplies is located in Middletown, Del. She and her husband decided to fill the void and last week opened Blue Hen Quilt Shop in Brookside Plaza on Marrows Road.
The Elkton residents said they never thought they would open a store together, but with Erin’s background as a pattern designer and long-arm quilter and John’s business experience in the commercial printing industry, collaborating just made sense.
Also, her home-based pattern design business was starting to take over their house.
“We just got too big for our britches, so to speak,” she said.
They looked at a few locations in Elkton, but ultimately decided to open in a vacant space in Brookside Plaza because of the close proximity to the Newark Senior Center, where the Ladybug Quilt Guild meets once a month. John said the store is also close enough to Maryland that quilters from Elkton can easily stop by.
Erin said they decided to stay away from downtown Newark because of the parking situation. She said quilt shops tend to attract an older clientele that needs easy access to the shop, and Main Street is too chaotic.
“You got to have good parking, so we needed to be a shopping center,” she said.
“Plus, we don’t really get a lot of walk-by customers, so we didn’t need to be on Main Street,” John added.
The Underwoods are hoping to become known as the main quilt shop in the area, but they acknowleged they have some competition with larger craft stores in the area. However, Erin argued that many employees at big box stores lack the knowledge and expertise to help beginner and expert quilters with their projects.
“The ladies here know what they’re talking about. They know what they’re doing,” she said.
In addition to Erin’s patterns, Blue Hen Quilt Shop sells fabric, rulers, rotary cutting supplies, pattern books, pins, needles, scissors and other supplies.
“Anything you need to make a quilt, we have it here,” Erin said.
Starting in April, the shop will offer quilting classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Erin, who has been quilting since the early 1990s and sewing since her college roommate helped her make her first dress, said she enjoys designing quilts because of the geometry, artistic creativity and functionality. Quilts are also sentimental, she said, and she’s looking forward to helping people in the Newark area create long-lasting memories.
“Most of the time, people are making quilts for somebody else,” Erin said. “If you ask a quilter when was the last time they made a quilt for themselves, they’ll have a hard time remembering.”
Blue Hen Quilt Shop is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.