Top 10 Lessons I learned from my first shop hop experience
After writing my last bog, in which I summarized my impressions of each shop and the overall experience, I started thinking about what I would've done differently. And what I may plan for the next time I do a shop hop. Here's my thoughts - in no particular order:
1. Have a route plan
On my first day, I basically just jumped in my car and headed to the nearest shop. Once I had a good look around there, I got back in my car and picked the next nearest. Not the most efficient plan in retrospect; if you're in the Albany, NY area then you know how squirrely the roads are here. So my first suggestion is to take a good look at where you live in relation to all the shops and make a thoughtful plan. Tr
y asking for suggestions too. My day two of shop hop was significantly more efficient than my first day thanks to a co-worker who had done the shop hop in previous years. Oh, and ...
2. Don't do it all in one day
This shop hop had only 7 shops; down from the original 10, I believe. And while I met people along the way that were hitting all 7 stores in one day, I just can't imagine they got to experience each shop fully. I spent 3 days in total. Day one included two shop visits; day two had four shops (which in retrospect was one too many); and one shop on day 3. Spending more than a couple days visiting each shop means you really get to know the flavors that each store has to offer. And besides, they call this a SHOP hop ...
3. Buy something at each shop
Okay, this may seem redundant to many of us hard core quilters. Personally, I've never met a quilt shop where I left completely empty
handed. But for the sake of argument, let's say you don't want to spend money. Let me step on the retail soap box and explain a couple of things. Each shop that participates in a shop hop has to PAY to be in it. They spend money to advertise, create special SH games, quilt blocks and even entire quilts, plus they typically stay open later which means they're spending more money in payroll to have decent coverage. They need us hoppers to not only peruse their wears but also purchase something. And it's important to make sure our local quilt shops - usually family owned - survive in a now internet-buying dominated landscape. Save our local shops. And to do that, you'll need to...
4. Have a budget
A budget? What's that? I can hear you say. This lesson is one I sorta already had in mind... not that I completely kept to it. I knew I wanted to support the local businesses, so I originally planned to spend around $20 at each store. I figured that would get me a few fat quarters, or a yard or panel of some eye-catching find. In actuality, I probably spent $30... maybe even more at a couple places. What can I say... I love fabric. And it's easy to get caught up in all the pretties that I find along the way. So don't be like me... set a budget, and keep to it. You can always go back and get more later. And be sure to ask about store specials, or sales. Always...
5. Talk to the shop owners (and other guests) alo
ng the way
Nobody knows their store better than the people who are employed there! Ask them questions! Tell them about your favorite designers or pattern makers - maybe they have some hidden gems that you missed upon first looking. For instance, I adore Janet Clare fabric lines; if I see them, I have to buy. And because I asked, I found some discontinued fabric from an older collection. (Scooped that right up!) This will also influence the shop owners when they go to restock their shelves. They really are listening to your opinions. And don't forget to chat up the other shop hoppers too! Us quilters are a pretty friendly crowd in general and we LOVE sharing our finds with others. In fact, after hearing I was new to the Albany area, I also received several restaurant recommendations while I was on the hop. Which leads me to the next tip...
6. Plan optional sight seeing on the route
Or hit a local restaurant dive while you're on the road. Why not? Treat the hop as a mini-vacation. After all it is a sorta road trip, right? Take a look at local sights and add in a little culture to your quilt fest. Here in the Albany area for instance, there's tons of historical homes, revolutionary war sites, Shaker, Mennonite, and Amish communities, and all the cultural museums that bigger cities have to
offer. Why not pick one to visit in between quilt shops? And don't forget to find a family-owned diner to stop at for lunch. Which reminds me...
7. Bring snacks
This was one of the bigger lessons for me. I could be driving for an hour between shops, and that fruit smoothie breakfast just didn't last as long as I wanted it to. Luckily, a few of the shops had snack bars, chips, or bite-size candies to grab on the way out. But next time, I'm definitely bring along a snack-mix or maybe I'll plan my route around local Dunkin Donut locations. (Ha!) And while you're at it...
8. Bring a friend
So this shop hop happened in the summer of 2020 (for all my future readers), which means the COVID pandemic was in full swing. And while both New York and Massachusetts were sorta back to business as (the new) usual, the shop hop was a bit lonely; at least on the drive between shops. I didn't feel comfortable inviting along a quilting buddy because of the whole social
-distancing thing, but I hope next time I'll be part of a small group of friends checking out the hop together. When I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, a group of us quilters did a one-day road trip to Amish country where we hit 4 shops, and had an amazing time. So bring a friend with you; that way they can help you...
9. Participate in all the shop hop games
If you read the previous blog then you know that this particular shop hop had a board game theme. Each shop had a little search and find quiz; and if your participated you were entered into a small drawing. It sounds a little silly, I know - but it was actually a really smart way to get you to really look around the stores - or chat up the owners who were all there to make sure you got the correct answers. Hopefully, if you do all this, you'll...
10. Have Fun!
Shop Hops can feel a bit like a race, a scavenger hunt, and a mini-road trip. All super fun things to do! Plus, you get quilt fabric! Sounds like a little piece of heaven to me!
Did I miss anything that you'd recommend? What's your go-to Shop Hop tips? Let me know!
Until next time ... gotta get back to the quilt lab!