by Britt Aamodt
Angie Roberts is the energetic and energizing entrepreneur behind The Noble Quilter. The Elk River store opened four years ago and has since become the place to go if you know a fat quarter from a bolt and prefer your creative blocks to come quilted.
You’ve probably seen the rustic stone-sided storefront next to Pearle Vision on Holt Avenue. Maybe you’ve even poked your head inside.
If you have, you’re not alone. In April, a motorcoach bused some 50 quilters all the way from Nebraska just to shop in Roberts’ store. And six months before, a select group of quilting aficionados converged on The Noble Quilter for a hush-hush photo shoot.
Those six months have been agony for Roberts, who was vowed to silence, until now, about the good news.
The spring/summer issue of Quilt Sampler, a publication of Better Homes and Gardens, hits stands early May with its top 10 list of favorite quilting shops. And, yes, The Noble Quilter made the cut.
The full-color spread calls Roberts’ store a “passion place” and describes the marriage of fabric, food and fun as a combination that feeds “the souls of quilters seeking kindred spirits.”
Colorful rainbows of fabric array on shelves. Quilts decorate walls and drape over furniture. The 26-seat classroom overlooks a pond that provides a home for ducks and geese. And there’s always something going on.
Classes provide instruction on everything from beginning quilting to tote bags, applique tablemats and quilting block patterns. Clubs meet there several nights a month.
“I call them my clubettes,” said Roberts, who keeps drinks and snacks on hand for hungry clubettes and quilters.
The Nebraska quilters were treated to homemade cinnamon raisin bread, still warm from the oven, made by one of the local quilters.
It’s those small touches that have put the store on the national map.
Interestingly enough, the owner wasn’t always into quilting.
“I’ve had a job since I was a teenager,” she said. For a number of years, she was employed as a technical writer for engineers.
“But when my second child was born, I became a stay-at-home mom. And there aren’t many of those anymore. So I was going stir crazy,” she said.
Her husband Robbin suggested she take up a hobby. She chose quilting.
“And I take things to an extreme. Therein lies the basis of my shop,” she explained.
The Noble Quilter opened July 2009, and nearly every day since, Roberts has spent at the shop or thinking about it.
That devotion is felt by customers like Flo Bird, Elk River, who said she comes to The Noble Quilter not just for the creative outlet but for Roberts.
“Angie’s wonderful,” she said, adding that she never leaves the store “without buying something.”
To be considered for Quilt Sampler’s top 10 list, Roberts had to sit down and fill out a lengthy packet.
“They wanted to know what kinds of classes we offered. They wanted to see a newsletter. They wanted to know why they’d drive 100 miles out of their way to come to my store,” she said.
She sent in the packet and then forgot about it.
A while later, the magazine’s editor, Jennifer Erbe Keltner, turned up at The Noble Quilter for a trunk show and salad luncheon organized by Roberts and her staff.
“At the end of the day, she said, ‘I’d like to talk to you in your office.’ I was like oh, OK,” remembers Roberts, who had no idea what the editor wanted.
Once they were safely tucked in the office, Keltner said, “I am so excited because I never get to do this in person. Your store has been selected as a top 10 shop.”
Running a business is never easy. For Roberts, it has meant spending time away from her family. It’s meant working three and a half weeks without a day off and 70-hour weeks.
What Keltner told her was just what she needed to hear.
“The staff has put their heart and soul into this store. I’ve put my heart and soul into this store,” Roberts said. And to get that recognition, she said, “was like winning the Super Bowl.”