Growing a business a stitch at a time

Graceful Marilyn wins quilt shop award

Photo by Jim Muchlinski Heather Rokeh and Michelle Salfer work inside their Graceful Marilyn Quilt Shoppe.

MARSHALL — Heather Rokeh and Michelle Salfer found out what it’s like to be considered the best in their business.

Their Graceful Marilyn Quilt Shoppe in Marshall won a regional award in the worldwide contest sponsored by the byAnnie.com online quilting supply company. The region includes all of Minnesota.

Rokeh and Salfer decided to enter the contest because of the potential to generate publicity for their shop and to be awarded special sales opportunities.

“We carry byAnnie products, so their contest seemed like a good opportunity,” Rokeh said. “It made sense to throw our hats in the pool.”

A total of 76 quilt shops in Minnesota entered the contest. There was a total of 821 entrants from throughout the United States.

Graceful Marilyn received 136 votes from customers to win the regional award. The second place finisher received 89 votes. Every customer who voted was required to write a comment about why they decided to vote for their quilt shop.

“The customers won it for us,” Rokeh said. “The best part about winning was being able to read the comments. We enjoyed seeing what they like about us.”

Graceful Marilyn was launched in 2021 when Fabrics Plus owners Tracy Veglahn and Cami Rosenboom decided to retire. After careful consideration, Rokeh and Salfer decided they could step in to fill the void.

“At first we just thought we’d get a good deal on fabrics,” Rokeh said. “The more we looked at it, the more we thought it was possible to have our own shop.”

Salfer said becoming a shop owner was a big step that brought plenty of satisfaction. It was more of a vision than a definite goal.

“It was always a joke between us,” Salfer said. “We shopped at Fabrics Plus. We told ourselves that if they ever retired we could open a shop. When the opportunity arrived we became serious about it.”

She said success in the quilt shop business depends greatly on having friendships with customers, and building on those friendships by finding the merchandise they need.

“It takes a lot of hard work,” Salfer said. “Service is really the number one part of it. We have a friendly atmosphere. We always try to be happy. We laugh a lot.”

Graceful Marilyn has grown to nationwide proportions. They have customers from as far away as Alaska who buy products online. Most of their customers are from the five state area of Minnesota, North Dakota , South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Rokeh said quilters and sewing enthusiasts will make special efforts to shop at a place with excellent selection and service. When they travel, they often take the time to visit quilt shops.

“People want to see what’s out there,” she said. “Quilt shops have opportunities to find a niche that includes a large number of customers.”

In looking ahead to the next five to 10 years, they plan to stay in Marshall and hope to continue their trend toward business growth.

“We’re still young as a business,” Salfer said. “In the past three years we’ve gained valuable knowledge. We still want to grow.”


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