My Biz: Building a quilting business, one strand at a time

Store has expanded over the past 19 years

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By R’becca Groff, correspondent

JESUP — Merry Backes started her shop, Merry’s Stitchins, in 1997.

“Back then I built a room onto my house so that I could teach friends to quilt there,” she recalled. “All I really wanted was a home studio room.”

As she began teaching classes and interest grew, friends told Backes that she should start selling fabrics to be used in quilting.

“I outgrew that one room in just a year and built on a second room,” she said.

A few years later, Backes decided it was time to expand further so she moved her business across the road. “This started smaller, but it kept growing and growing,” she said.

“We are out on a country gravel road in the middle of a cornfield,” she said. “But I tell people all the time that we are worth the drive.”

The building has 22-foot peaks to help display all the quilt samples, which Merry crafts herself.

“There really are quilts hanging everywhere,” Backes added. “I think we have 5,000 bolts of fabric in the store.”

Merry’s Stitchins, which has three employees, also carries patterns, kits, and notions.

“We take care of all the orders first thing in the morning,” she said. “We are always making (quilting) kits, too. Some days the store is full of customers all day long.

“I try to keep up with ordering new things. Fabric reps stop in. It’s a busy eight-hour day. And sometimes, as the owner, it’s a 20-hour day. I sew every day and every night.”

Merry’s Stitchins recently was named as one of the 10 featured shops in “Quilt Sampler” magazine.

“I’ve tried to get in that magazine for 18 years, so it’s a real honor,” Backes said. “It’s a sisterhood of shop owners.”

The store hosted an open-house event a few weeks ago to celebrate the recognition.

Backes noted the store has “a giveaway every two months that we call our ‘sample spree.’”

The old shop now is used as a retreat center for groups that would like to spend some time — whether just one day or a few weeks — quilting together.

She also created a charity, called Return the Favor, that provides quilts to people in need. In the past, Backes said the charity has donated to Northeast Iowa Hospice, the VA hospital, and men’s and women’s shelters.

“We have 15 to 20 women who meet up once a month in the shop to make a quilt to donate,” Backes said.


Owner: Merry Backes

Business: Merry’s Stitchins

Address: 1923 Baker Rd., Jesup

Phone: (319) 827-6703

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