The March day on which Joyce Muhlenbruch planned to move the inventory of Country Quiltin’ By Design in Plains, Kansas, to the new Birds of a Feather Quilt Shop in Dodge City is the day the pipes froze.
When she and her family arrived at the former business, there was 6 inches of water in the lowest level of the building, threatening to ruin nearly 800 bolts of fabric and much more in the way of furniture, including two church pews that now continue to present those same pristine products inside her store at Eryn’s Downtown Center, 509 N. 2nd Ave.
The family worked together and saved everything for the benefit of their fellow quilt enthusiasts back home in Dodge City.
"It was a crazy, crazy move," sister Leslie Muhlenbruch said. "But life happens when you’re busy making plans."
Leslie works the counter while Joyce is away at her day job as a civil engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"We’re doing this together, as sisters," she said. "I’m glad I was able to help her fulfill her dream."
"I’ve always loved to go to quilt shops and take quilting classes," Joyce said. "And I love to engineer quilts. It’s more fun than engineering roads."
When she learned the shop in Plains was for sale, Joyce jumped at the chance to buy its inventory and open the only Quilts of Valor shop in Dodge City.
The sisters opened their doors on March 8.
They love the former Eckles building, which Leslie said "is a charming location that shows off all the fabrics and colors."
Referring to the three armchairs arranged in front of a wide, sunny window with a view of Spruce Street, she said, "We want people to be comfortable here and enjoy the atmosphere.
"Birds of a feather flock together, after all. People who quilt like to hang out together. And when you get a bunch of quilters in a room, the creativity is contagious."
Together with new inventory, the shop boasts more than 1,000 bolts of high-quality cotton fabric, as well as kits, notions, books, patterns, and cotton and polyester thread.
Customers can also take advantage of the services of a long-arm quilting machine, as well as classes for all skill levels, scheduled at a variety of day, night and weekend times, "so working people could take the classes," Joyce said.
Classes are held in a space on the second floor the sisters refer to as the "bird house."
Business has been picking up as people find out about them, Leslie said.
"It’s been many years since Dodge had quilt shop," she said. "You think of quilting as a dying art form but we’ve been seeing a lot of interest from young people."
In her spare time, Joyce quilts one Quilt of Valor blanket per month. They have a wide variety of "defenders of freedom" fabric.
"That’s really what you’re doing," Leslie said. "You’re making something from your heart. This is art with fabric."
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