Before Allie Luedtke was the owner of Crafthouse, she was a Lincoln resident who was frustrated – frustrated about fabric options.
Yes, fabric, as in fabric for sewing.
It might not sound like a big deal, but to Allie it was a problem. See, in college, she had the same issue. As a textile, apparel and design student at UNL, there were numerous occasions when she couldn’t find the kind of fabric she was looking for. There were no big, modern prints, no classic and soft cottons – her options were limited.
She thought to herself, ‘Someone really should fix this problem and open a more modern fabric store…’ never considering the fact that the ‘someone’ she was referring to could be herself.
Years passed and Allie found herself in another set of frustrating circumstances, this time, it was about her job. She was working in retail and really questioning her career path. She considered going back to school, switching careers… and then thought about the whole fabric store situation.
She realized that even though she didn’t consistently need fabric for school projects, nothing had changed. No one had filled the fabric void, and so the question in Allie’s head became, “What if I opened a shop?”
The idea was a nice hybrid between her degree and her retail experience, plus, she had a clear vision of her dream shop. But according to Allie she wasn’t a “business brain,” so even entertaining the idea seemed ridiculous.
As her discontent with work grew stronger, Allie said her ideas started to make their way out of her head. She pitched the idea to her husband, parents, siblings and close friends, and soon she needed to do something other than just talk about her idea.
So, Allied decided she might as well just try opening up her own shop. She and her husband worked out the business details, she had family members help design her logo and shop space and six months later she was opening the door to Crafthouse in October 2013.
At that point the shop was located on north 48th street. It was small, but overflowing with just what Allie knew had been absent from the Lincoln fabric scene. Bolts of bold and modern patterns lined the shelves, rolls of yarn were stacked in the corners and everything was a visual and textural treat for customers. It was just what Allie had envisioned.
A year later, she expanded the shop, knocking out a wall and giving herself more retail space as well as room to grow their increasing number of sewing classes.
Allie joked that while the shop expanded, she expanded as well, as she and her husband prepared for the birth of their first child. She said it was fun to have customers come in and see how she was growing and ask about her due date. Allie even went into labor while she was at her shop and had to leave to go to the hospital.
Having a new baby and owning a shop brought about a bigger shift in Allie than she anticipated. She was a full-time owner and mom who had her baby in the shop with her nearly every day.
Allie said she used to be a very private person, she kept to herself and wasn’t someone to let her personal and work life overlap too much. But that all changed when she had Calvin in the shop with her. Customers would “ooo!” and “ahh!” over her sweet newborn, but then there were the times he was fussy or stunk up the shop with a whopper of a dirty diaper.
She’d ask customers to hold her baby while she cut fabric or to wait a few minutes while she finished feeding him. It was an overwhelming season, but also a very telling one, Allie said. She learned so much about herself and her customers.
“I’m like the hot mess mom,” Allie said with a laugh. “But it’s been cool to form friendships through that and realize that people aren’t ridiculously perfect.”
Being a full time mom and shop owner opened the door to real conversations about more than just fabric at Crafthouse. Allie said friendships come to life in her shop as people learned basic sewing techniques or just connected over a particular pattern or style.
At the end of 2015, Allie had to be honest with herself as well. Things with the shop were going well, but they could have been better. She liked the cozy neighborhood where the shop was located, but it wasn’t always easy for people to find.
Allie needed to move Crafthouse, and that seemed like a major undertaking. What if it failed? What if a new location didn’t help her sales? Could she even afford to move?
The questions came with a wave of anxiety and stress, but Allie knew she needed to pull the plug on her beloved shop and make the move.
Earlier this fall, Allie celebrated the three-year anniversary of Crafthouse and their recent move to a new location. She said 2016 has been hard, full of change and days when she didn’t know if she could keep going. But it was also when she realized the Crafthouse chapter of her story wasn’t over, it just needed a new start.
Allie never pictured herself opening a fabric store. She didn’t imagine herself dreaming about new bolts of fabric, designing her own line of custom patterns or even bouncing her baby on her hip while chatting with customers, but that’s where she’s at, and she loves it.
Not everything is perfect, her story, her shop, her life, and that’s just fine by Allie. She’s not about perfection, because she’s convinced the best stories in life are far from perfect.