The Allure and Impact of Kelly Ann’s Quilting
“Mine is such a unique business that it’s a destination in itself. My audience is very targeted, and the quilters just gravitate here.” Kelly Ann Richardson has good reason to believe she has cornered the quilting market in Fauquier County. Now in its twelfth year of operation, Kelly Ann’s Quilting (KAQ) remains an Old Town Warrenton crowd-puller due to the inexhaustible initiative of its proprietor and her six-member team who have successfully carved out a niche business with an impressive scope of special services.
They offer sewing clubs, video tutorials, FaceTime instruction, guest educators to demonstrate the use of products, and even an annual Quilt Retreat at Sea Caribbean cruise. “We try to put the personal touch to it,” said Richardson of KAQ’s creative and client-centered business model. “It’s always about being consistent, so we give consistent customer service.”
Yet it’s more than consistency that accounts for the shop’s long-term presence on South Fifth Street. Rather, filling a void was Richardson’s main impetus for this enterprise: “I looked for a need in the town. I saw that we didn’t have a quilt shop here, and then I just immersed myself into the community.” In fact, an innate flair for design complemented Richardson’s natural business sense, which was buttressed by her background in banking.
“I was 35 years old when I learned how to sew and quilt,” she revealed. “It’s so much fun to see [the progression of] where I started in quilting to where I am now. In the beginning it was just me. I didn’t know any other quilt shop owners. I joined an organization and through that met a couple of people with whom I work and have become really good friends. My mentoring came from the quilt shop owner community, because you find that there are some people who really want to see you succeed.”
Inspired by the connections she had built, Richardson opened her doors for business in March 2005, and her knack for networking has continued to ease her role and elevate her station as an entrepreneur. Three years as a board member of the Greater Warrenton Chamber of Commerce helped her cultivate supportive relationships with merchants and vendors. Her social media savvy has served to capture an international audience, inspiring scores of newbies and keeping her faithful followers in the loop through Facebook, Instagram, and an active blog. In fact, over 90 percent of Richardson’s customers live outside of Fauquier County. Even Better Homes and Gardens recognizes the shop’s status, naming KAQ as a Top 10 quilt shop in the country in its Spring 2015 edition of Quilt Sampler.
KAQ’s two annual events also generate interest on a large scale while helping to promote tourism and boost the economy of Warrenton. Driven mostly by social media and local quilt shop communication, the Row by Row Experience will run from June 21 to September 5 and draw up to 1,500 people to the area. This “nationwide shop hop,” as Richardson describes it, involves 3,000 quilt shops across the country.
“Every shop designs a row (hence the name),” she explained. “This pattern can be kitted up, but every shop has to be able to give away a free pattern. Customers can then buy the kit, which they can’t buy online, or they can just walk in and get a free pattern or win prizes such as fabric packs. The first year we did this, we gave away 1,000 copies of our pattern. The whole idea behind Row by Row is to drive traffic into local quilt shops in the summertime.”
KAQ’s second event, the Quilters’ Quest Shop Hop, will begin on November 9. A smaller scale of the Row by Row Experience, this event is designed to transport quilters between 10 shops in northern Virginia and Maryland via 11 buses hired for the purpose. This 10-day tour draws up to 1,300 visitors, allowing them the chance to check out each shop’s merchandise, get free patterns, win prizes, and meet other quilting enthusiasts. “There’s that camaraderie, the developing of relationships and the family feeling you get as you go into each of these shops,” said Richardson of the bonding she sees at these occasions. “I like to think I’m that matchmaker who can bring quilters together.”
And it’s not just quilters that are brought together through the efforts of the KAQ team. “My events don’t just benefit me; they benefit the whole area. I firmly believe that if the town or my neighbor across the street is successful, then I’m successful,” continued Richardson, who regularly coordinates projects and fundraisers with local nonprofits such as the SPCA, Services to Abused Families, and Fauquier Community Food Bank.
Simply being part of a community of businesses helps build the relationships and the economy. “You can’t be in business without giving back to your community. If I don’t do anything else when I close my doors at night, I know that I’m still giving back—and if it weren’t for the community, I wouldn’t be here.” And that “here” is a unique destination in itself.
For more information about Kelly Ann’s Quilting, please call 540-341-8890 or visit
www.kellyannsquilting.com for tips, products, classes, events, and more.