As you enter the fabric store, soft music can be heard playing in the background; a calming aura instantly embraces its visitors. The walls are dripping with color as 80 stitched masterpieces claim every inch of space. Owner Claudia Blodget greets you with a ready smile, and welcomes you to 5 Heart Quilts.
Here in Tehachapi, small-town businesses come and go. Many of the mom and pops have shuttered to big-box or the internet. Still, 5 Heart Quilts marches on, 25 years and holding strong.
"My motto is: Quilting is great therapy, and you have more than a canceled check for your therapy," said Blodget, who holds a degree in art and is internationally known for her quilt patterns. "The store is full of all the patterns that I have written. In all, I have 17 in publication."
In addition to selling fabric and notions, Blodget makes quilting kits for her clients.
"No two kits are exactly alike, because that's kind of a sin," she said.
Blodget originally opened the store a block down from her current location of 104 W. Tehachapi Blvd., in the Four Seasons building. As a resident of Hart Flat, she would bring her children to Tehachapi on the weekdays to attend school.
At that time Tehachapi was home to two fabric stores: one was going out of business and the other's owner was retiring.
Said Blodget, "I said to myself, well, if you are going to do this, then now is the time. The Lord opened the doors to it, and I walked through them."
Six years later, she moved her store and bought its current space 13 years ago.
"What I do is quilting art, and have sold many quilts," she said. Of the 680 quilts she has created in the past 46 years, many now reside in far-away lands, including Germany and Switzerland as well as all around the United States. All of her quilts are signed, dated and numbered in true form as an artist.
One of Blodget's admirers is Ed Potter, who has received a quilted table runner for his dining room table.
"She has made table runners for my three daughters for Christmas," Potter said. "They are really wonderful."
Today, Blodget is followed by many quilters, and is known for her color combinations. She has since become a West Coast destination for quilters. In addition to the supplies and her hand/machine stitched, finished quilts she sells, she teaches quilting on a one-on-one basis, particularly to beginners.
"I have been teaching beginners for 35 years," said Blodget. "I am gentle. I take them by the hand, and lead them through it. I show them where the potholes are and how not to fall in."
Blodget said her greatest joy comes the moment her students catch on to the technique.
"I love to watch the light come on," she said.
Asked about her secret to longevity as a successful store owner, she said, "Perseverance ... and to always be gentle with my customers. I set out every day to see if I could put a smile on somebody's face."
5 Heart Quilts is open Tuesday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She can be reached by calling 822-8709 or email at email@example.com. For more information, visit 5heartquilts.webs.com.
Small Town, Big People is a series of stories focused on interesting people in the Tehachapi community. If you would like to nominate someone for a future installment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.