If, after a long day of office work in downtown Cincinnati, you’d like nothing better than to kick back and sew with some people who really know how, Karen M. Williams has the place for you.
Or she will on Reds Opening Day, April 4, when she plans to open Sewendipity Lounge at 722 Main St., a “whimsical place to create garments with a dip of chic,” as she puts it on her website, www.sewendipitylounge.com.
Why a sewing lounge?
Williams, 66, has loved sewing and making clothes her entire life. She learned to sew as an 11-year-old growing up in Walnut Hills, where she took sewing classes at the former Sears & Roebuck store at Lincoln and Reading. She taught others as an extension home economist with Ohio State University, eventually becoming the chair of the extension office in Hamilton County. Now retired, she lives in Mason with her husband, Kenny.
Why the name?
It’s a play on words between sewing and serendipity, Williams said, because the launch of the business has seen many happy coincidences. For example, she found the company that created her website, Push Pop Media, when she stopped to talk with one of the principals, who was doing some sewing at the MakerSpace in the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Are there similar stores locally?
Yes. Sewn Studio in Oakley sells fabrics, offers sewing classes and a lounge where seamstresses can put together projects and talk about them with others, which is what Williams plans to do with her shop. There’s also Fiberge Knits + Bolts in Pleasant Ridge, for knitters and seamstresses.
Williams visited these stores and talked with similar stores in Colorado, Columbus and Atlanta before refining her concept. “I saw a niche — no one was doing garment construction,” she said.
How will her store make money?
Through memberships, which will cost from $145 to $240. The basic membership entitles the owner to book a workspace for up to 16 hours a month for six months. The premium membership includes 48 hours a month, plus a 10 percent discount on classes. Other revenue sources will include the cost of classes and sales of high-end fabric.
Who will sign up?
Williams is hoping for beginners who just want to start sewing their own garments, as well as more advanced seamstresses who want to refine their skills. The first members will likely come from the 50 members of Greater Cincy Sewing Couturiers, a sewing circle she started using.
How much has she put into the store?
She won’t say exactly, but it’s more than $20,000, all from her savings. The money includes the cost to renovate the store, which, as the former home of Main Street Casket Store, was filled with coffins. The casket store moved to 825 Main.
Lots of people live there, or walk by the store during the day, Williams said. The store she’s leasing is on the streetcar line and there’s a bus stop just two doors down. She expects that members might like to drop in after work downtown and hang out until the commuter traffic eases.
What’s the greatest challenge so far?
Accounting. Williams has gotten some good advice from friends and relatives who do accounting, as well as from the retired business mentors at SCORE Cincinnati. “If you don’t have the details down, you can lose your shirt,” she said. “You have to know where, to the penny, the money is going. … If you don’t know where the money is going, you’ll be out of business in six months.”
She’s confident that won’t happen at Sewendipity.
“My plan is not to fail," she said. "I will figure out how to do it."