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Spotlight on Business:
This column salutes REAP businesses that are helping to make Nebraska strong.

Quilting Hobby Transforms into Business
Your husband buys the property next door for the garage. He says, “I don’t care what you do with the house.” What would you do? Well, Phyllis Hamaker knew what she would do – open a quilt shop! That was in 2000 when they lived in Curtis, Neb. At that time, a local woman owned two shops that carried craft and quilting items, and she was ready to sell. Phyllis purchased the inventory and started her business.

Before she could open, however, much work needed to be done to the little house. They painted, cleaned, and took out a wall. She used one room for fabric and supplies, one for a classroom, one for cutting fabric, and one for displaying quilts and more fabric. Phyllis opened The Quilter’s Cottage in January, 2001. After purchasing more inventory, she found herself needing additional working capital and needing to make improvements to the store. A REAP loan was approved in 2004, and the business continued to grow. They put in a floor with patterns that looked like quilt blocks!

In September of 2007, Phyllis moved The Quilter’s Cottage to 2220 Central Avenue in downtown Kearney. She started in the front half of the building. A used furniture store was located in the back half. In February 2008 she was able to expand into half of the back, and in April 2008 she expanded into the whole level of the building. She has lots of fabric inventory, patterns, books, and supplies to sell. Phyllis realizes she has more customer base in Kearney than she had in Curtis. Also, with gas prices on the rise, she believes her location in Kearney will remain more profitable than it would have in Curtis.

Phyllis also holds many classes. She loves to teach quilting to those who don’t know how and share the joy she experiences from the art. Check out the class schedule on The Quilter’s Cottage website --  www.quilterscottage.net -- and see how busy she is. She offers mail order service on items available.

Phyllis has been a vendor at the “Threads Across Nebraska” event and the Quilt Nebraska State Convention for many years. She has exhibited and won awards at local, area, and state events. She has participated in the “Shop Hop” since 2002.

The challenge that Phyllis has been experiencing echoes what other small business owners have indicated. It is difficult to find reliable, part-time employees. To her advantage, a machine quilting business is located upstairs and a machine embroidery business is located downstairs in her building.

These complementary business owners consider themselves the “Tri-Level Mall” and do assist one another at times.

Phyllis belongs to the Kearney Downtown Association and participates in the business community promotions. She and husband Bill have two grown children. Their daughter’s family lives in Central City and their son’s family is close by in Kearney. She enjoys her grandchildren.

“My quilting started out as a hobby, then became an obsession, and now it’s my business. It’s great to have a business you love,” says Phyllis.

Phyllis Hamaker is shown in front of one of her quilts at The Quilter's Cottage in Kearney, Nebraska. 
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