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Former local church patched into Crazy Redhead Quilting

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 11:56 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 1:30 p.m. CDT
Laura Jochems (right), owner of Crazy Redhead Quilting, prepares several rolls of fabric Tuesday as she readies to open the doors or her new store on June 1. Her mother, Lillian Prendergast (left), and her mother-in-law, Joyce Jochems, also are helping in the set up.

Laura Jochems is crazy for quilts. Itching to start a business venture, the Newton native mulled over ideas of an antique and consignment shop. But it wasn’t until Cornerstone Quilts closed its doors that an opportunity opened for Jochems to do something she enjoyed.

June 1 will be the first day of operation for Crazy Redhead Quilting. Currently the Newton entrepreneur is busy unpacking boxes of 100 percent cotton fabrics and stocking patterns into their turnstiles at the former Grace Lutheran Church on First Avenue East. Jochems said the location is what made the store possible. With lofted ceilings suspended by wooden rafters, hardwood floors, an intact altar and pulpit, she hopes the church setting will give creative inspiration to her future patrons.

“I had purchased another property, but the location was less than ideal,” Jochems said. “But I walked into the church, and I just knew it was perfect. It just reads charm and makes a ‘wow’ for a business. It’s a great place for it.”

Jochems said it’s important for her to keep the integrity of the old church intact. The building was erected in 1956. Without a pastor and an aging congregation, the church decided to disband after its 2011 Easter service.

Parts of the church have been retrofitted, but few of the handcrafted features of the building were removed. Jochems said the pews were ornate, crafted in the late 1800s and taken from a former funeral home in Newton. Some of the antique benches were sold, but others will remain and be used for display. Anticipating a diverse clientele, Jochems also removed the cross, understanding that some of her customers might be of different faiths. In its place, a large quilt will cover the white space over the altar.

At the front of the store, Jochems carries notions and stabilizers used in machine embroidery. Walking back through the former church where the 100-plus-year-old pews once stood, Jochems has rows of batiks, hand stamped and dyed fabrics. Jochems boasts brights, Civil War and seasonal fabrics and carries patterns by Dakota Collectibles. Another company called Affected Furniture also will sell refurbished and re-purposed pieces within the Crazy Redhead Quilting store.

With her opening day approaching, Jochems is busy. She continued her set up Tuesday morning with assistance from the two women who inspired her to quilt: mother Lillian Prendergast and mother-in-law Joyce Jochems. Prendergast was always a seamstress while Jochems was growing up, and it was her mother-in-law who showed her the quilting craft.

“We’re kind of at the point where the first isn’t very far away,” Joyce Jochems said as she rolled a yellow fabric up for stocking.

On Thursdays through Saturdays, Crazy Redhead customers will have a chance to be treated to an added bonus if they are hungry for ribs, baked beans or briskets. Jochems has initiated what she calls a “barter agreement” with Newton barbecue man and high school friend Doug Wolfe to set up Papa Wolfie’s BBQ in the quilt store’s drive.

His menu changes from week to week, but he often offers ribs, briskets, and homemade cookies. Wolfe was born and raised in Newton, and began making barbecue out of his garage nearly two years ago. He recently became state-certified to sell from his movable stand, and will be cooking outside Crazy Redhead Quilting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

“I’m slowly taking baby steps to expand,” he said. “I figure, if I put good food out, people will come.”

As Jochems’ business progresses, she said she will begin to add inventory including sewing machines, and once the basement is renovated, she plans to offer quilting classes. But for now, she said she hopes to offer products to spark creativity in a creative place.

“This is where I’m headed,” she said. “And this is what I want.”

Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com.

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