Karen Kester, owner of Sequim Sewing Center
Began sewing: fifth grade
Favorite color: red
Has three daughters: Sarah, 28, Lindsey, 23, and Kellie, 19
Prior to Sequim: Lived in Port Townsend
Most common store question: What type of fabrics and classes do you offer?
Friendships have been stitched together at Karen’s Sequim Sewing Center for 20 years.
Owner Karen Kester attributes the store’s longevity to loyal customers who give it a sense of community and make it a place people can go for support.
Kester knows firsthand that the shop can be a place for healing.
More than five years ago her husband, Richard, was diagnosed with cancer, which killed him.
His illness forced Kester to close a shop in Silverdale and left her unsure about what to do in Sequim.
Her customers began helping while she dealt with his illness and death, volunteering in the store, leading classes and performing other needed tasks.
Susan Cheyno, a class instructor, said the store is needed in Sequim and that’s why people continue to help out.
“There are a lot of talented people here who need fabrics and materials,” she said.
Kester remains grateful and greets most customers by first name and often with a hug.
“The quilt club ladies have made sure I stayed open,” she said.
Beginnings The Kesters bought the sewing machine and vacuum cleaner store 17 years ago, three years after it was established. Richard had retired as a service technician for Pitney Bowes after 20 years and wanted to be his own boss, Kester said.
They ran the store together, with Richard repairing vacuums and sewing machines.
Following his death, Kester hired Don Heckathorn as repair person.
“He’s a lovely addition and can fix anything,” she said.
She’s since dropped the vacuum repair, despite the sign above the storefront.
“People ask about vacuum services sometimes, but I’ve been so busy with everything that I haven’t been able to change the sign,” she said.
Karen’s Sequim Sewing Center added fabrics after two Sequim stores that carried textiles closed.
Kester was reluctant at first but decided to educate herself and moved forward with carrying yardage.
“Now, picking out fabric is fun for me and it’s like my own supply for home,” she said.
Kester recently made some more changes inside the store. Before Christmas, she added more space by removing walls, changing the flooring and repainting.
Sewing solidarity For Kester, opening her store is an opportunity to do good for the customers.
“I was once told by a customer, ‘When I leave this place, you make me feel like I can do this,’” Kester said.
“My big thing is support. When you come in, our job is to make sure you can do what you want to do.”
Having fun and laughing are a big part of Kester’s joy in her work.
She recalled once when Richard was working on a sewing machine with a clogged wheel. When he opened it up, a dead mouse was inside.
“It was petrified, but we got a good laugh out of it,” she said.
“We definitely knew why it didn’t work.”
Kester seems genuinely happy running her store, and customers and friends agree that it seems to be working for everyone.
Store offerings Karen’s Sequim Sewing Center offers a wide variety of textiles and services. • Fabrics • Threads • Embroidery designs • Sewing machines and accessories • Patterns and books Classes for: • Beginners • Quilters • Serger cutting • Embroidery • Applique
Those who join the Bernina Sewing Machine Club receive half of his/her age off as a discount, e.g. age 60 equals a 30-percent discount off one item. On meeting days, members receive 15 percent off purchases or 10 percent off at any time. Meetings cost $5.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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