January 30, 2013

Hahira’s Sew Blessed opens Sew Blessed Quilts, The Design Station

January 30, 2013 Stuart Taylor The Valdosta Daily Times

HAHIRA — If you ask the women who run Sew Blessed, Sew Blessed Quilting and The Design Station, they will all agree that they're very fortunate and, yes, they are so blessed.

Sharon Respess started out as a silent partner with Sew Blessed, until the original owner, Lois Bellflowers, decided to leave to spend more time with her family. Respess decided to take over the day-to-day operation.

“I thought it would be easy,” Respess chuckled. “I was very naive back then.”

Just before taking over Sew Blessed, Respess met Ivey Crenshaw when Crenshaw made curtains for Respess.

“I told her that a friend of mine was opening a boutique that featured children's couture,” said Respess.

“I put down my curtains and started making kid's clothes,” said Crenshaw.

Since that small beginning, Respess has added a number of talented women to the staff.

“I've been lucky enough for God to send the right people in my direction,” said Respess.

“We all really complement each other well,” said Janie Blalock, the manager of the new Sew Blessed Quilting. Sew Blessed Quilting opened less than a month ago in a remodeled ex-gas station/ex-fruit stand in Hahira's downtown.

Sew Blessed Quilting, as the name implies, focuses on quilting, offering fabric tools, and patterns, as well as quilting classes.

Sharing the space is The Design Station, run by interior designer Jesslyn Brantley, a long time member of the Sew Blessed ladies. Along with running the store and helping customers find the right piece for their home or office, Brantley also makes house calls, running out to a customers' home or office. A recent Valdosta State University graduate with a degree in interior design who has also done corporate design work, Brantley is well-loved by everyone there.

“She has been my right hand these last few years,” said Respess. “And she is amazing at finding things for people.”

“No matter what kind of piece people want to finish a room, she always finds it,” said Blalock.

Fran Roberts, Sue Hudson, and Toni Williams round out the Sew Blessed team. The women come from Douglas, from Pearson, from Quitman, Valdosta, and Hahira every day to work, talk, and/or teach. It's the friendship they all share that keeps them coming.

Still, they're  not without their disagreements. “We're women, so we butt heads sometimes,” said Respess. Blalock agrees.

“You can't be with family without some disagreement,” said Blalock.

“But we're each other's biggest fans and support system,” said Hudson. “We're always here for each other.”

“Some of us are retired and don't have to work, but we want to work here,” said Roberts.

This philosophy extends to their customers. Whether someone buys fabric, pins, patterns, or a sewing machine, the women of Sew Blessed want them to feel like they're buying the shop as well. Customers often come into the store looking for help with the embroidering software they bought, or looking for someone to talk to about their sewing machine. Sharon, Sue, Ivey, Fran, Toni, Jesslyn and Janie take the time to talk with them, something that's sometimes lacking at larger stores.

Their whole philosophy, both for customers and for friends, can best be summed up by walking into Sew Blessed.

You're immediately struck by the large, open doorway that connects it to the store next door, the Tin Bucket. The doors to it have been open since the stores opened next to each other seven years ago.

“We couldn't even close the doors if we wanted to,” said Janie West, who, along with Sharon Darby, runs The Tin Bucket. “We all enjoy working together, the whole downtown. We send customers back and forth to each other. We're fortunate to have that relationship.”

Fortunate, indeed. And so blessed.

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