Writing business

This Utah quilting company brings together quilters from across the country

Kris Thurgood never expected to get into quilting.

“I’ve always loved having the chance to be creative in other ways, but it was never sewing,” Thurgood said, adding that she and her twin sister, Kim, had tried other DIY crafts.

Thurgood — CEO and “visionary” of the Utah-based company My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shop – said she had a “pretty terrible” sewing experience in middle school and high school, which made her think she would never touch a sewing machine again.

Shortly after Thurgood’s marriage, she says, she was reintroduced to sewing. She was visiting a neighbor and saw a quilt on the wall. “There were snowmen all around, I’ll never forget that,” she said.

Thurgood asked her friend where she bought the quilt and was surprised to learn that it was handmade. Her friend said Thurgood might do something like that too. They quickly formed a small group of friends to get together from time to time.

“I didn’t even own a sewing machine, they just let me borrow theirs,” Thurgood said. “They invited me into their circle, we started sewing, and it took off from there. I fell in love with it.”

That same sense of camaraderie would come in handy in 2011, she said, when Thurgood found an unoccupied retail space she liked in Logan and thought someone should open a quilt shop there.

“I didn’t think it would be me,” she laughs. “I was trying to convince a friend of mine to do it.”

The Logan space was 1,800 square feet, Thurgood recalls. “It was an absolute family business from the start,” she said.

Thurgood emailed her husband, Mike, who was then international sales manager and was traveling for work. Mike was in China when Kris asked him if he would ever consider opening a quilt shop together. Mike’s initial response, Kris said, was that they would talk when he got home.

Mike Thurgood eventually quit his job to help Kris start her dream store. (His job titles are now Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer.)

“We decided we were going to jump in with both feet, there was no plan,” she said. “We would make it work no matter what.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Wayne North, quilting machine technician, at My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe in Sandy, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Six Core Values

Now, My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe has locations in Logan and Sandy, with a third in Orem slated to open in late October. The company has 78 employees in the three stores.

All, Kris Thurgood said, follow the six core values ​​she learned when she got into quilting: team player, solution oriented, adaptable, trustworthy, dependable, and having a state of positive spirit. Together they are known, internally, as “The Girlfriend Way”.

The store’s purpose, cause and passion is to “enable one to impact many,” Thurgood said, adding that the company hires employees based on these principles.

“It’s a very relationship-based business that we’re in, if you choose to,” Thurgood said. “That’s what it was about for me from day one. To open a store, it had to be more than a place where you have cuts of fabric. It would be a gathering place for women, especially, but also for men.

It’s evident from Thurgood’s interactions with customers that stores are such a gathering place. She said they treat her like their best friend – writing emails about their lives, their children and grandchildren, and even their health issues and struggles.

“When we help someone succeed in what they do, they feel empowered and then become a better wife, mother and grandmother because they feel they have achieved something special,” he said. she declared.

These interactions, Thurgood said, reflect the heart of quilting: the idea that it brings people together, even across generations.

Quilting, she said, is a way for people to express themselves emotionally. “From pain to joy, all these emotions are [expressed] through quilting into something tangible with fabric, thread and sewing,” she said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cindy Butterfield, District Store Manager at My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe in Sandy, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, overlooks Handi Quilter Amara Long Arm with Pro Stitcher.

Survive the pandemic

This outpouring of emotions was especially apparent, Thurgood said, during the COVID-19 pandemic — when, at first, she thought stores might close forever.

At the start of the pandemic, she said she remembered thinking, “I don’t know how we can keep the lights on. How can we keep employees employed if we don’t have people walking through our doors? »

She said: “It was a pivotal moment for me to say ‘We’re not going to go down without a fight’.”

They moved their in-store courses online, to Zoom. They taught their core demographic – women 50 and older – how to use the software. Classes that once held a dozen students at the store now draw 300 people, most from outside Utah, she said.

Business has grown exponentially, Thurgood said, as the pandemic has left people stuck at home and looking for new hobbies. “The lesson learned with all of this is that when these kinds of things happen with our economy and our world, to stay vibrant as a business, we have to find a way to pivot,” she said.

A joyous part of this pivot is something called “Three Things at 3:00”, a talk show segment posted on the store’s YouTube channel. “We had to find a way to lift people’s spirits because many were in distress during this time,” Thurgood said.

The three things in each episode are: a smile (like a funny story or anecdote), a quilt tutorial, and a daily deal, usually a discount for something at the store.

When the store was able to reopen, in May 2020, Thurgood announced its intention to discontinue the program. The response from her fans across the country, urging her to keep the show going, has been incredible, she said. The emails said, in summary, “You are our only link to the world,” Thurgood said. “You may be open in Utah, but I’m in Nebraska or Connecticut or Alabama, wherever you are.”

Almost three years later, the store is still producing the show and publishing it every weekday.

“I keep thinking, ‘When are people going to get sick of this?'” Thurgood said. “They just don’t. It was amazing.

Thurgood said her ultimate hope is for people to feel good about working with her boutique, and that some of what she learned from her first sewing experience helps to enhance her customers’ experience.

It’s less transactional and more relational, she says, because relationships are the absolute key to the success of her small business.

“In each place we have sofas and chairs. It’s a place where people come. Sometimes at the end of a working day, they just come and sit down,” says Thurgood. “They’ll be like, ‘I’m sorry, Kris, I’m not buying anything today. I just need to sit down and relax,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quilt fabrics at My Girlfriend’s Quilt Shoppe in Sandy, Wednesday, October 12, 2022.