In a year that’s been traumatic for so many Wichita-area retailers, there’s some happy news about one longtime shop that looked to be closed for good earlier this year.
Former art teacher Beth Janssen has purchased the popular Sewing Center in the Indian Hills Shopping Center at 13th and Meridian.
For some time in January and February, longtime former owner Beverly Seyfert briefly closed the store due to health reasons.
Seyfert started the business in Arkansas City decades ago and eventually moved it to Wichita. It’s been at Indian Hills for a few years but was near 21st and Amidon for years before that.
In June, Seyfert closed the store, but Janssen began running it again in July and this month finalized her purchase. She said she gives a lot of credit to Kanza Bank.
“I feel like they deserve some props for believing in that business. It’s really difficult to get financing right now for a retail store.”
Janssen is making some changes to the Sewing Center but honoring its long legacy in Wichita as well.
“They have a huge client following.”
The store sells “anything, basically, that you would need to sew,” Janssen said. That includes sewing machines, supplies, quilting material and fashion fabric, which is the kind of fabric used to make clothing. Janssen said a lot of places don’t sell that.
Custom-made fabric is important to her as well. The store purchased the rights to use some of designer Bill Gardner’s work for prints featuring scenes from Wichita sites, such as Joyland and Riverside.
“We’ve almost sold out of those, so I’ll be doing more of that.”
Janssen said that “a lot of younger people are really turning towards slow fashion, and that requires quality over quantity.”
She said it’s a backlash against chain stores that sell cheap items from overseas that wear out quickly.
The point of slow fashion is to “buy really good quality fabric that’s not going to wear out in three washings.”
Janssen said she’s trying to modernize the Sewing Center as well.
“It was a pretty old-school business.”
The shop didn’t have much of an online or social media presence, and Janssen has already boosted that.
However, there are some older approaches that she’s keeping.
Janssen has a background in fashion and costume design and said she has “a real love for that sort of old-school tailoring stuff that you can’t get anywhere.” It’s a niche she wants to keep.
She also wants to add more quilting supplies and plans to keep quilting and tailoring classes.
Janssen was an art teacher for 15 years and wants to keep the store’s connection to the art community.
“I want to keep and build on that.”
She said her background as a teacher is helping with the Sewing Center. Janssen said teachers have to regularly relearn things, be flexible and have a wide range of skills.
“If I hadn’t been a teacher for 15 years, I don’t think I could have done this business.”
Janssen said it’s also important to her to get to know customers and ask what they want in the store.
“I know it’s been a rough time, but a lot of people have really found solace in making things,” she said.
“Customer service becomes more and more important, too, when you’re thinking about small business.”
Janssen said that point was reinforced when she recently had to shop with a national competitor and “the customer service was terrible.”
“We’re really trying hard to bend over backward for our people.”
She said it’s important for customers to think of small shops like hers now as well.
“Who is really helping in our local community? Small business is really a part of that,” Janssen said.
“I feel like right now is a really important time to help support local business.”
— to www.kansas.com