Moda Fabrics has been in business for 40 years. And for well more than half of those years, Yoder Department Store in Shipshewana, Indiana, has been buying Moda fabrics to sell to their customers.
“We got started with Moda when our customers came in and asked about it,” says Nancy Troyer, a 38-year Yoder Department Store employee and the shop’s fabric buyer. “I wasn’t familiar with it and I had to get on the bandwagon to find out how to get it. Since then, it’s been an honor to buy the wonderful Moda fabric that comes out every season.”
Yoder Department Store stands out for its longevity with Moda, but also for its years of operation as a family business. Ora and Grace Yoder founded it as a dry goods store 70 years ago: their grandson is general manager today. The store’s building—aka Yoder’s Shopping Center—originally housed the department store, a hardware store, and a grocery store. Today a café, where customers stop for coffee, ice cream, and lunch, has taken the place of the grocery store and the department store occupies half the space. About 20,000 of its 26,000 square feet is devoted to shoes, linens, and clothing. And, of course, fabric.
Especially popular at Yoder Department Store are the designs created for Moda by Primitive Gatherings, Kansas Troubles, French General, Three Sisters, and Me and My Sister, among others. In addition to quilting cottons, Yoder’s Department Store carries duck, denim, nylon net, wool, fleece, flannel, oil cloth, and toweling. “Moda toweling is a favorite,” says Nancy. She notes that Bella solids are also especially popular. “We kind of focus on them, because many of our guests can’t find them in their local shops.” Amish customers who sew their own clothing also appreciate them. “We’ve noticed a trend of young Amish ladies purchasing 100% cotton for their little boys shirts,” says Candice Parker, the fabrics department manager. “In the past they were using blends.”
Yoder Department Store’s customers extend far beyond the local community. Shipshewana is a tourist destination, with flea markets, a theater, more than 125 shops, and festivals and special events filling the calendar and drawing visitors from around the world. Of special note is the Shipshewana Quilt Festival, now in its seventh year—last year 5,000 quilters attended. Held in June, the festival includes a quilt show with cash awards, vendors, nationally known quilting teachers, a shop hop, and much more. (For more information on this year’s festival, visit http://www.shipshewanaquiltfest.com/index.html.) Moda is a sponsor of the event, and has produced exclusive fabric for it. “Last year Vanessa Christensen allowed us to recolor one of her fabrics in a more traditional color scheme, and our employees had a contest with it, which helped customers see a variety of options,” says Candice.
Going the extra mile for customers is what Yoder Department Store’s fabric department is all about. “We carry a lot of hard-to-find items and have loyal customers,” says Heidi McHugh, the store’s advertising and marketing manager. “My grandmother is one of them. She likes to come in and have Nancy help her. She’s worked with her for years.” Employees help customers choose fabrics, draft patterns, and calculate yardage. “We specialize in customer service and want to make sure our guests have a good experience,” says Heidi.
Working with Moda has been a pleasure for Yoder Department Store employees, and Moda’s enjoyed the experience, as well. For the past 22 years, Mark Pytel has been the sales rep who visits the shop. “It’s a pleasure to stop and see them, as it is with all my shops,” says Mark. “Yoder Department Store keeps up with the times—they went to QuiltCon, use social media, and go to regional shows. They like to be on the cutting edge of new fabrics each season. They’re doing what they can to keep their business going and I’m doing what I can to help them.”
Nancy remembers the first time she bought fabric from “Moda Mark” as she calls him. “He was so excited to present Moda fabrics to someone new that he was bouncing off the walls,” says Nancy with a laugh. “He’s fun to work with and loves his product. It’s been exciting to see the quality and patterns and prints that Moda continues to produce.”
For more information about the Yoder Department Store, visit their website at http://www.yoderdepartmentstore.com.