214 EAST CALIFORNIA STREET
Many people come to Jacksonville to retire…but then, somehow…don’t. Because they love what they do.
Take Marge Wall, owner of Country Quilts. She’s operated the shop, located at 214 East California, for fourteen years, although she and her late husband Bob had established the business in 1987, in the building right next door. That’s three decades of making quality quilts full time—after she had retired from an accounting career.
“When I was twelve years old, I knew I wanted a store where a consumer who didn’t sew could buy a quilt,” confesses the energetic 83-year-old. “I didn’t want a fabric store—I wanted a quilt store! And my husband Bob finally made that possible.”
She’d been making quilts since she was six, and she knew that to become a “serious quilter,” she needed a “longarm” quilting machine. A large, expensive device, typically ten to fourteen feet in length, the longarm is used to sew together a quilt’s layers (top, batting, and backing) into a finished piece. Bob acquired a loan to purchase a longarm, and, in turn, Marge taught him how to sew. “He fell in love with quilting,” she relates fondly. “He made quilts till he died.”
Thirty years is an impressive run, but quilting is a historic craft, and Marge’s business just keeps growing. “I sew about 350 full-size machine quilts a year, and maybe 275 baby quilts,” she says. “The Mennonites up in Halsey, Oregon make a lot of the tops for me, as do women in Evanston, Indiana and Osage, Iowa. I finish them, do the machine quilting, and sell them in my shop. But if a top comes in that’s really beautiful, I send it to a woman in Pennsylvania, who’ll hand quilt it.”
In addition to her quilts, Marge carries aprons, made by a local artisan, along with homemade jams. She also carries fabric: “But not too much fabric,” she says. “Just enough to keep my quilting regulars happy.”
When entering Country Quilts, visitors quickly notice Marge’s vast collection of Jim Shore statues—brightly colored figurines based on characters from Disney movies, Christmas favorites (like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), and animals in general—especially dogs (Yes, Marge loves dogs). Years ago, Marge says, a sales rep came in with samples; she was uninterested until he said, “But they’re quilty!” Sure enough, every one of the figurines features a subtly beautiful quilt pattern. (Shore’s grandmother was a master quilter.) Marge was intrigued, so she accepted a selection. “The first batch I ordered took seven days to get here—and seven seconds to sell out,” she laughs.
Quilty. What could be better!