HATFIELD — For years, Ginette Senecal had dreamed of opening a quilting shop, but as single mother of three who was holding two jobs to make ends meet, there was never a spare moment to make that a reality.
Now, with her children successfully off on their own, Senecal, 58, is making her dream come true, as the owner of The Yellow Quilt Shop in Hatfield.
The shop is located at 131 Main St. in the Riverview Commons building and caters to quilters of all levels, abilities and interests.
“We do a little of everything. I sell fabrics, quilting kits, sewing notions, patterns and we offer quilting classes,” Senecal said. “I also quilt for people.”
Since opening in August, Senecal has been slowly and steadily building her classes and inventory and finishing the interior of the shop.
“When we first rented this space, it was all empty and unfinished so we had to do a lot of work,” she said. “We had checked out other places before deciding on this one, but even though this needed work it was perfect for what I wanted to do, so it was a no- brainer.
With the help from her family and fiancé Dave Bergeron, 59, of Southampton, who she refers to as her all around “handyman,” Senecal turned the space into a functioning retail and quilting shop.
Now, the store has two large open rooms. One is set up for sewing and boasts a large Handy Quilter HQ16 Long Arm computerized quilting machine, a large table and chairs, sewing machines, ironing board, and to make it “a bit more homey,” an electric fireplace, TV, refrigerator and microwave.
“The TV comes in handy because while they are working on a project, people look up quilting videos on YouTube,” Senecal said.
Classes are taught by experienced quilters and are open to anyone interested in quilting. Senecal says that some people show up with no quilting experience at all, while others arrive with their own sewing machines and materials in tow.
Students not only learn to quilt at their own pace, but share a friendly camaraderie with other quilters in a social and comfortable setting.
When students are working on group projects, Senecal describes the atmosphere as bustling with activity.
“Some will be sewing, some will be cutting, one will be at the ironing board, and there is always a lot of food!” she said.
The other half of the shop is all retail space that houses shelves of fabrics, batting, sewing tools, books, patterns, quilts and other merchandise.
“We carry a variety of fabrics including Moda and Hoffman fabrics which are very popular with quilters,” Senecal said.Turning a dream into reality
Senecal grew up in Westfield. She began quilting in 1990 after attending a quilting retreat on the Cape with a friend. After that, she was hooked.
During the late 1990s, Senecal worked at Bon Ton department store in Westfield and the Pediatric Associates of Hampden County also in Westfield, where she is still employed as the practice’s billing manager.
“I had been dreaming about opening a store like this for quite a long time,” Senecal said.
While she was excited about the prospect of working for herself at a job that she loved, some friends and relatives were highly skeptical and worried that her ambition was nothing but a pipe dream.
“I didn’t care what they thought. This was my time. I had my goal, I had a plan and I was going to go for it!” she said.
Senecal knew she had the desire, drive and dedication to open a store, but before jumping in with both feet, she wanted to make sure she had the business acumen as well.
In 2011 she quit her retail job and entered Bay Path University, then earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2015.
“It was difficult. I would go home from work eat dinner and do homework until 1 a.m. every night,” she said.
A year before finishing college, Senecal was already working on all of the paperwork she would need to open her business.
“It can take a long time to get everything in order and I wanted to make sure things were done the right way and ready to go when I got my degree,” she said.
After graduating, Senecal moved in with Bergeron, sold her home in Westfield, and used the proceeds to open the Yellow Quilt Shop.
“What I learned at school is really helping me now with this business,” she said. “We are holding our own, I am not in debt and I don’t owe anybody any money so that is a good thing.”Grand opening shocker
It was by word of mouth only that Senecal had announced throughout the quilting community that she was opening her store in Hatfield last August, and invited people to attend the grand opening.
Word traveled far and wide about Senecal’s new shop and she was stunned at the turnout for the event.
“I pulled into the driveway and the place was packed! I was so shocked I wanted to cry,” she said. “We didn’t expect it to take off that quickly.”
Both local quilters and others from out of state attended the opening, helping the store to clear over $1,000 on its first day.
Part of the excitement for the new store was likely because there are not many quilting shops in the area, and prior to the opening of the Yellow Quilt, the “Southampton Quilt Shop” had just closed, leaving a void in the Valley for quilters.
“There is a quit shop on the Mohowk Trail and one in East Longmeadow, but I am it for this area,” Senecal said.
Senecal says her one misstep in the beginning, was being open for more hours than the store could handle before it is fully finished.
“I tried to be open six days a week but the payroll outweighed what was coming in, so I had to cut down on the hours,” she said.
With four part-time employees, the shop is now open Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Her words of advice to those contemplating a new business, career or life change:
“If you don’t try you will wonder your whole life if it was something that you could have done,” she said. “If it works out, then that’s great, and if not, at least you gave it your best shot and you can move on to something else. No regrets.”
For information on classes visit: www.theyellowquiltshop.com