Sensational Seniors – March 2017
Marge Wall, the owner of Country Quilts here in Jacksonville, decided to take it a little easier this January and close on Sundays. So now, instead of operating her quilt store seven days a week, she cut back to six. And this is a woman who will turn 83 this April. As her business neighbor and friend, Whit Parker, relates, “Marge is from another generation when people simply did not stop working. I admire her greatly.”
Marge is a third-generation Oregonian, who was born during the depths of the Depression in 1934 at her parents’ Medford home because it was too snowy to get to the hospital and way too expensive. Her dad was a steel worker and her mother, besides raising eight kids, cleaned houses, and took in sewing and any odd job to help the large family survive the Depression. Marge attended Medford schools for all twelve years of her education, graduating from Medford High School in 1952. Shortly after her graduation, at age 17, she married her first husband, a marriage that lasted for 21 years and produced two children, a girl, Debbie, and son, Mitch. In addition to her two children, she has one granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.
After her marriage, Marge entered the work force, first doing accounting for the local General Motors branch and then for the state at the Medford DMV office for 13 years. After that, she moved back to accounting and worked for Hughes Lumber until her first retirement at age 63.
After her first marriage ended in divorce and in-between jobs, Marge moved to Eureka, California for a time where she met and married, Bob Wall, “the love of my life.” It was also during this time that she rekindled her interest in quilting… something that she had done off and on since age six. Marge soon realized that to be a serious quilter, that she needed a “long arm” quilting machine, so in 1975, she purchased one in Eureka for $10,000. She convinced her new husband that they needed to get a loan for the long arm, and they made the purchase only to find out the machine was constantly breaking down and, according to Marge, “did not operate worth a hootenanny.” Undeterred by the long arm mishaps, Bob said, “If you will teach me how to sew, I’ll learn how to fix this machine,” and the rest is history. Marge relates with fondness that, “Bob absolutely fell in love with quilting, so much so that he wanted to open a quilt shop” and this led them back to the Rogue Valley and a home in Jacksonville. Marge relates that “we loved Jacksonville; we lived on 4th Street and could walk to work.”
Wanting to establish a true quilt store that focused on selling quilts, they opened Country Quilts in April of 1987 with Bob Wall running the store for the first nine years until Marge retired from her job with Hughes Lumber Company. From the beginning, they featured a wide variety of quilts including an impressive number of antique quilts, some dating from the 1860s. As the store became more established, they begin adding other features including fabrics, embroidery kits, quilting books and a full line of Jim Shore miniature statuary. In addition, the Walls established themselves in the active local quilting society by attending every quilt show they could and “always lending our support to the local quilters.” Whenever they could secure quilting teachers, they added quilting lessons.
While Marge still grieves the death of her beloved Bob some twenty years ago, she has kept the shop going because as she relates, “I love my shop. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it. It is what keeps me going.”
As Marge reminisces about her Country Quilts experience she says, “I am most proud of my family, but my store is right behind the family. Now, as I look forward to celebrating 30 years of being open, I know that my health is failing, and I need to start thinking about retirement, but that is hard to do. I wish Bob and I had traveled more as we had planned to do and travel isn’t something that is much fun to do alone. Even going out to dinner alone is not very enjoyable.”
When asked about what advice she would give someone contemplating a career in retail, she did not hesitate, “Go to work at Costco. They are a great representation of what can be done in retail services. In addition, they pay well and treat their employees fairly. Costco would give anyone a great base for entering the retail world.”
Marge Wall closed the interview with a simple but profound statement, “Jacksonville has been absolutely great to me.” Likewise, Marge Wall has been great to Jacksonville and she was recognized in 2014 with the Jacksonville Boosters Club “Directors Award” for her long-time support of the community and the Boosters Club.
If the mood strikes you, please stop by her store to help her celebrate her 30 years at Country Quilts. She is always ready for a visit.