Business is sew special

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 3, 2005

Drive west down Commerce Street in Greenville and the display in one of the front windows is likely to catch your eye – fabric, bolts and bolts of it, in all colors, patterns and textures.

In one window, an ordinary lawn swing has been transformed with billowing red and white fabric into something quite sumptuous.

Welcome to Kershner’s Fabrics, one of the city’s newest businesses. The shop, which offers all forms of custom sewing to its customers, is located in the former home of Alice’s Antiques.

&uot;We bought the building at the end of July and donated the contents to be auctioned off to raise money for the Main Street organization,&uot; says Lana Kershner, a self-professed &uot;fabric addict&uot; whose husband, Billy, is owner of the shop.

&uot;We started restoring the building and putting up the fabric racks…Billy was putting in the air conditioning and heating himself, so we had to leave the doors open while he worked. People just started coming in – you know, we never did have an actual grand opening,&uot; says Lana with a grin.

Business born in a barn

While the Greenville location for the fabric shop is new, Kershner’s Fabrics actually started out in a restored barn on the family farm on Highway 10 East, several miles outside of the city.

&uot;I was an R.N. in Mobile for 20 years – but sewing was something I always loved. I pretty much made all of [my daughter] Chanel’s clothes when she was growing up,&uot; Lana explains. Chanel, who is helping out her mom during the holiday rush, chimes in, &uot;She did – she even made my bathing suits. Mom sewed pretty much everything but my shoes.&uot;

Lana Kershner says she has always adored fabric – and depends on fellow &uot;fabric addicts&uot; to keep her business going.

&uot;Fabric addicts like me love to look at, to feel, to think about fabric – and so help us, we have to buy some at least every now and then,&uot; Lana laughs.

Husband Billy does custom upholstery work, and browsers in the business can see several examples of his expert work on display in the shop.

A move to the city

Business was steady at the Kershner’s rural location. Lara says she was content to stay &uot;down on the farm&uot;, but others were encouraging her to move to town.

&uot;Jo (Weitman) and Nancy (Idland) both would come out to visit me at the barn and urge me to consider moving the fabric business to Greenville.

For a long time, though, I just couldn’t share in their vision of being downtown – but now I do,&uot; Lana nods.

The Commerce Street location has given the Kershners the opportunity to promote other businesses in the area.

&uot;It’s been fun here. We all try to support one another through word of mouth – I send folks who come in here to The Pineapple, WestPoint Stevens Outlet, Karen Rainey’s Interiors, Alissa’s Closet, Flea World and other shops, and to Jan and Julie’s for lunch or for coffee – and they do the same for me,&uot; Lana explains.

She adds, &uot;We are excited to see how Greenville is growing – and not just through the new industries.&uot;

Greenville, it seems, is rapidly becoming a shopping destination for folks in south Alabama.

Changing trends

Lana Kershner sees a growing trend that’s drawing shoppers away from big cities, big malls and mega-chain stores to the charms of small towns such as the Camellia City.

&uot;We are seeing a lot of ladies who want to come to small towns and shop in small shops,&uot; she said. &uot;You’ve got independent stores and owners and you will find different things than in a chain store – and people like that a lot. We’re seeing people coming in from Selma, Evergreen and Monroeville because they like what they find here in the local businesses. The sidewalk restoration and other work that has been done downtown really helps, too.&uot;

Working together

Kershner is especially impressed with the &uot;great&uot; buys offered by the West Point outlet. &uot;These days a lot of ‘outlets’ really don’t offer very many good deals, but the West Point store here is an exception.

It’s a true outlet with some fantastic buys and I heartily recommend it to shoppers.&uot;

She brings out a white Ralph Lauren bedspread purchased at the West Point outlet and points out its attractive nautical design. &uot;I can see this turned into a tablecloth for a lake house or beach house – or even used on a boat,&uot; Lana enthuses.

She says she creates many of her custom window treatments, bed ensembles and other home d\u00E9cor items by working with the West Point outlet. A blanket or tablecloth can be transformed into a stunning window treatment, for example.

&uot;I’ve been able to assist customers in learning how to use [West Point] products – it’s been a good ‘partnership’&uot;.

Because of their own low overhead expenses, the Kershners are able to offer some luxurious fabrics at very reasonable prices. &uot;In most cases, we can sell our fabrics and trims at roughly 50 percent off regular retail,&uot; Lana says.

The Kershners employ a group of talented local seamstresses to complete the shop’s custom orders.

&uot;These four ladies have years of sewing experience from working in local factories – and they are very serious about their work. It is more than just a job for them; sewing is something they really enjoy and take an interest in. I thank God for them, because they do fantastic work,&uot; Lana says.

For Lana Kershner, fabric is more than a business. It’s a building material.

&uot;Depending on how you look at it, it’s amazing what wonderful things you can do with a piece of fabric – I just love it,&uot; she says with a smile.