Do you Remember? The Calico Shop

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One of the first two quilts Concetta Lovoy Kreps made from material from The Calico Shop. (Concetta Lovoy Kreps)

CULLMAN, Ala. – If you were in Cullman from the late-50s to the mid-80s, chances are you wore something or received something hand sewn with fabric and materials from The Calico Shop. Gertrude and Luther Hinds opened the upscale fabric store, which was located at 209 First Ave. SW, in 1958. The store was known for its beautiful high-end fabrics and patterns for making anything from casual play clothes to the most elegant wedding dresses.

The Calico Shop was loved by many and perhaps a little boring for the kids expected to wait patiently as their moms or grandmothers browsed through the seemingly never-ending patterns. Mrs. Hinds and her staff helped many who hoped to make the perfect dress or desired to learn how. The Calico Shop provided materials for more than clothing, carrying loads of drapery materials, quilting supplies and craft projects.

Concetta Lovoy Kreps recalls many wonderful trips to The Calico Shop with her mother.

“I started going there with my mother when I was just a little girl. I always had to go in and see all the fabrics. I’d go up and down the aisles looking at all them,” she recalled. “I found what I thought was mink and I ran and got my mother. I said, ‘They’ve got mink here!’ She said, ‘They do?’ I said, ‘Yes! Come see, come see!’ She followed me and saw this huge bowl of fake fur. She bought it and made me a stole, a hat and a muff to wear for Christmas for church. I really thought I had mink. It was so funny.”

A few years later Kreps’ love of making quilts began, and she traces those beginnings back to The Calico Shop.

“I always talked to Rosie Morgan and she drew off my first pattern on a piece of paper,” Kreps said.

Morgan worked downstairs with all the quilting fabrics and craft items. Kreps said she wasn’t sure she would be able to make a quilt, but with Morgan’s help and encouragement, she made the first of many.

“She helped me all the way- drew it out on a piece of paper. Back in those days, there was no such thing as quilting patterns. They offered people so much help, you could not fail,” Kreps said. “Those are my favorite memories, especially the quilting. My mother bought all her fabric there and she just loved the place.”

Sue Dyer Shoemake also has many wonderful memories of visiting The Calico Shop.

“The Calico carried really high-end fabric. Really good stuff. Mom made everything we wore, and it was rare when we bought anything from the store. Mom would tell us that she could make it prettier,” she said. “Sewing was her passion.”

Even Shoemake’s wedding dress and attendants’ dresses were made from fabrics from The Calico Shop.

Shoemake said when she had a day off from school, her mom would often say, “Sue, let’s go to The Calico and we’ll check out the patterns and everything.”

Shoemake explained, “We would always go and find our patterns and everything first. The Hinds(es) had several little counter areas set up and you could sit on a stool and look through the patterns to your heart’s content.”

The Calico Shop had McCall, Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue and other patterns.

When Shoemake had her son, she said, he wasn’t a big fan of the fabric store.

“He hated to go because he knew he was going to be sitting on the floor playing because we would stay too long,” she laughed. “We didn’t even get the door closed and he looked around and said, “Oh no, The Calico!’ I have spent hours- I wish I knew how many hours of my life were spent in The Calico.”

Shoemake also recalled longtime employee Novell Wynn and said, “She was really good about helping you. I remember when I didn’t go with mom, after I was older, if Mrs. Wynn was in there, I’d say, ‘Mrs. Wynn, do you think this fabric would be hard to sew?’ She was honest, too. She would tell you, and I valued her opinion.”

The Calico Shop closed in the mid-80s when the Hindses retired.

Reporters note:  Novell Wynn was my grandmother and she worked at The Calico Shop for many years. My attitude toward The Calico Shop was similar to Shoemake’s son’s. I remember a wall of gorgeous buttons in every shape, size and color that would keep me occupied while the few minutes grandmother said we would be there turned into an eternity.

Grandmother was an expert seamstress and made most of my clothes and all my dresses when I was young. She even sewed one of my Sunday dresses that won the blue ribbon at the Cullman County Fair. I was incredibly proud of my blue ribbon dress. She also made stuffed animals for me with material from The Calico Shop including a gray Persian cat, a giant clown (which was moved to the attic after the release of ‘Poltergeist’) and my favorite Fuzzy Wuzzy teddy bear.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com