Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Checker Open House

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to demonstrate at Checker Distributor's annual Open House in Maumee, Ohio.

Checker is one of the major distributors in the quilting world and they are celebrating 62(!) years in the business.

Checker caters to the independent quilt stores and their company philosophy stresses supporting, servicing and providing new ideas to independent businesses.

After attending their Open House, I can see why they have been so successful. Checker really is a CLASS ACT!

I have to say special thanks to my buyer at Checker, Jamye Schneider (sorry, no picture!), who suggested to the "powers-that-be" that I be invited. I had such a wonderful time and was so honored to get to "run with the big girls (and guys)" at this special event. As Jamye told me, the annual Open House is Checker's biggest and best event of the year, so I felt very honored to be included.

Penny Haren made many of the arrangements for my trip and did a great job of organizing and coordinating everything. From making hotel reservations, arranging for transportation to and from the Detroit airport, and patiently answering all my questions, Penny really made my experience delightful.

It was a pleasure to meet all of the friendly and helpful Checker staff.

Nancy Weber, Checker's chief pattern buyer, picked me up at the airport in Detroit.

Nancy had recently returned from a fun trip to Alaska, so I enjoyed hearing about the places she had visited. I also had to smile to myself because I had brought one of my cookbooks (From Halibut to Jalapenos) to give to Nancy as a small thank you.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that she had tried to purchase the very same book while there, but the store had just sold the last one! She had never connected the book with me, so it was fun to see her excitement when I gave her the book.

While in Alaska, Nancy had purchased seal skin thimbles (I'd never heard of such a thing!) for her friend, Kathy Brown (Teacher's Pet).

Kathy was thrilled to get the thimbles, saying that, with use, the hair comes off (that's good!) and they really mold to fit the finger. She says they are the best thimble she's ever used. Guess I'll have to check those out on my next trip to Alaska.

Kathy is the author of the very popular book and pattern series, Take Five, as well as Bedrunners, runners to go on the end of your bed.

She is a delightful, easy-going lady from Louisiana, and I enjoyed hearing her story about how she quit her job at a major oil company and found her niche in the quilting world. She is a great story-teller and I'm looking forward to trying her techniques for making quick and easy quilts.

Next to arrive was Amy Barickman (Indygo Junction/The Vintage Workshop). I have long been an admirer of Indygo Junction patterns and designs so it was really a treat to meet the founder of the company — and to learn that she started in business when she was only 16!

Read more about Amy's story at her website. I was especially impressed to learn that over the years Amy has teamed up with innovative artists to publish over 800 pattern title and write over 80 books. She is one busy lady!

Our last passenger to arrive was sweet Karen Eckmeier (The Quilted Lizard). I was really pleased to see that both Karen and Amy came with just a little luggage as I had taken two very large suitcases full of all my booth samples and displays. (Thank goodness for Southwest Airlines and two free bags!)

We got acquainted with each other during the 45-minute ride to Maumee, Ohio, home of Checker. Checker has recently completed remodeling their entire facility so we oohed and aahed over the beautiful offices and warehouse. Everything looked so clean and new.

After a quick lunch, we went to work to set up our booths. Checker thought of everything and had an area ready to go for each us including draped tables, sturdy wire racks loaded with our products, and beautiful wooden quilt racks for displaying samples.

While we were working, store owners were enjoying classes. We took a little break to attend Eleanor Burns' "Down on the Farm" presentation. Eleanor is a hoot so that was very fun. Of course, I bought Eleanor's American Barns book. I can't wait to try some of her techniques.

The next morning, we arrived at the warehouse early to finish setting up and take a few minutes to shop. Not surprisingly, there was already a line of shoppers waiting to get in!

Checker made it extra easy by allowing customers to pre-register for the event. That made the customers eligible for lots of wonderful door prizes and allowed them to simply walk up to the desk to pick up their registration packet.

They could start shopping immediately!

If customers had pre-ordered fabric or supplies, it was easy to pick up those items as well.

Checker is all about educating their customers to use the products they carry, so they had a great line-up of demonstrators and presenters.

Amy Barickman was showing her new Vintage Notions book and related designs.

Kathy Brown demonstrated how easy it is to make quick quilts using the great Creative Grids rulers and showed designs from her books.

Karen Eckmeier demonstrated her terrific technique for making accidental landscapes. Her quilts were stunning and the technique looks so easy and fun.

I stayed very busy showing people all the fun ways to use Texture Magic. (Every sample wanted to go along, so I had lots to show!)

Depending on the fabric you choose, the stitch you use, and the thread you pick, you can get so many different effects.

I also explained why I love using the Power Steam Pro steamer when I work with Texture Magic.

Next to me were Margaret and Betsy (MorninGlory Designs).

They demonstrated how easy it is to texturize fabric using Texture Magic.

Betsy and Margaret have the most wonderful jacket patterns -- including one that features fabric texturized with Texture Magic, the San Mortiz Jacket.

Heather (Mother Superior) and I texturized some fabric and sent it to Betsy and Margaret and they made each of us a jacket.

Here's Heather in her beautiful red and purple jacket.

I'll post pictures of my beautiful jacket soon.

Eleanor Burns (Quilt in a Day) shared lots of great techniques for making blocks quickly and easily.

Penny Haren not only helped coordinate the event, but she also demonstrated her innovative new Pieced Applique™ technique and her techniques for using the "Square It Up and Fussy Cut" rulers made by Creative Grids.

Nancy Halvorsen (Art to Heart) shared techniques and projects from her latest book, Tidings.

I was thrilled to meet Joan Hawley (Lazy Girls Designs) as I have long been a fan of her style. I love her sense of humor and enjoyed seeing her new Lily handbag.

Though I never got over to see her booth, Patsy Thompson (Patsy Thompson Designs Ltd.) was there with all her wonderful machine quilting DVDs.

And, of course, the helpful Checker sales reps and staff were available to answer questions and help customers find what they needed.

Checker thought of everything to make the day run smoothly, including passing out lunch tickets at the door. With six different lunch times, no one had to wait in line. The food was delicious — barbeque and all the trimmings. Yum.

Once customers had their carts stocked, each check-out station had assistants to organize their purchases, sort everything and pack it for the trip home.

Twelve check-out stations kept lines to a minimum.

The packers loaded the merchandise right into the customer's cars. One customer asked if she could strap the guys to her roof so they could unload everything when she got back to her store. Wouldn't that be nice?

I met so many wonderful people: fellow demonstrators, Checker staff, and lots and lots of wonderful store owners. It was an experience that I will always treasure.

Thank you, Checker, for inviting me. I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Happy stitching,