After 18 years, Judy Hansen has decided it’s time to retire and give up her Downtown DeLand quilt shop.
“It’s just time in my life,” she said.
Hansen’s husband, Kermit, retired two years ago. The couple have three grandsons, ages 3, 4 and 5, who live nearby, and they want to spend more time with them.
In conversation about the store’s pending closure, however, it quickly becomes clear that “retirement” might be the wrong word. The Quilt Shop of DeLand, at 115 W. Rich Ave., represents just a fraction of Hansen’s busy work life.
She will keep open her online store for quilting supplies. She will still lead quilting retreats, and will continue teaching and lecturing to quilters across the nation. A professional watercolorist, Hansen will also continue to design fabric lines — she’s done 13 so far.
A visitor asked Hansen when she sleeps, prompting laughter from her staff, who said they have often asked her the same thing.
Hansen said parting with her team of seven part-time employees is the hardest thing about saying goodbye to the shop.
“The girls are great. They are absolutely the best team I could have,” she said.
Hansen’s energy is evident throughout the Quilt Shop. It’s brimming with quilts and other projects she made, quilting kits she created, and bolts of fabric, including those she designed.
These days, the shop is also brimming with customers, as fans flock to the store to buy up closeout bargains.
They come from all over. Karen McClellan and her niece Joann Brown are from New York. They winter in Lady Lake, and visit the Quilt Shop of DeLand whenever they’re in the area. And they will miss the shop.
“We’re going to pout for a while, and then we’ll just have to find online stuff,” Brown said.
Hansen is in near-constant motion, helping customers, suggesting fabrics and techniques, giving instructions to the staff, and occasionally stopping for a spontaneous mini-seminar that quickly draws a crowd of customers around her.
She is looking forward to a more flexible schedule, but will miss the people.
“I’ve always loved people,” she said. “I think you treat people right; you treat them like you want to be treated.”
That was a guiding principle for Hansen when she started her business in a 700-square-foot location about a block east of where the Quilt Shop of DeLand is now.
“I was scared to death,” Hansen said.
She had taught school for 20 years, but had never been in business. However, Hansen said, teaching taught her management skills and self-reliance, and knowledge about computers that would come in handy in her business.
There was never a question that the Quilt Shop would succeed.
“A week before I opened, I had ladies banging on the door,” she said.
It’s been a good run for 18 years.
“It’s just been a joy,” Hansen said. “An absolute joy. I’ve had less than five bad days.”
When Hansen opened her shop, there were only three quilt stores in all of Florida. Fabric makers saw fewer people buying cloth to make clothing at home, and started catering their fabrics to quilters.
The hobby boomed during the mid-1980s, Hansen said, and is now a $4.6 billion industry worldwide.
“Quilting is about family,” Hansen said. “It’s about making a project for a baby, or for a wedding.”
Quilters are the family members who take pictures and put them in albums, plan family reunions and make sure the family-tree page gets filled out in the family Bible. They have made Hansen’s time in retailing a happy one.
“I think, by nature, they’re just really, really nice people,” she said.
The Quilt Shop of DeLand will remain open until the merchandise is sold, Hansen said, probably about April 1. She has sold the building, but can’t disclose the buyers yet because the sale isn’t final.