Though she’s had a number of “black-and-white” jobs, color has always been dear to Christie Ruiz’s heart.
First she was a police officer, wearing a drab uniform. Then she served as technology coordinator for a local school district, working with keyboards and monitors day-after-day.
Despite these monochromatic careers, Christie nurtured her love of tints and tones. Her mom taught her to sew when she was seven, and Christie caught the quilting bug in her 20s. About 17 years ago she opened an online store, which is still part of Christie’s Quilting Boutique. “I had quite a following and people would ask if they could come to my store, but that was my house so it didn’t really work,” she says. About three years ago her husband Edgar found a property and they decided to open the brick-and-mortar shop. “I had to leave my real job, but I’ve never been happier. Spending every day with quilters is great—we laugh and giggle and are so happy to see each other.”
The 2,000-square-foot space reflects Christie’s love of cheerful colors and her state pride. One wall is dedicated to the “Connecticut girls”—fabric designers Kate Spain, Denyse Schmidt, and Jennifer Paganelli all live not far from the shop’s Norwalk, Connecticut location. “We’re located on a major throughway from New York City and people who stop in can’t leave without buying a piece of fabric from a Connecticut designer,” says Christie. “When Kate’s Early Bird line came in, there were two or three bolts gone the same day!”
Christie has nonstop energy—“my staff won’t let me have more than a cup of coffee a day because they can’t keep up with me”—and the shop hums with activity. Classes, a block-of-the-month program, and three-times-weekly open sewing sessions mean quilters are always popping in and out of the shop. Christie’s already gearing up for a biannual Connecticut shop hop held in September, which last time brought in 500 shop-hoppers over 10 days. Quilters come in to participate in charitable activities like Quilts of Valor, the Million Pillowcase Challenge, and the RARE Bear Science Project. The “Connecticut girls” show up in person for the shop’s annual retreat, held this year on April 8, and Kate Spain comes in to share her holiday fabric during Christmas in July.
Kate’s not the only popular Moda designer at the shop and Christie has sold Moda fabric since she opened. “Deb [Holmes] is my rep and helps me navigate the waters,” says Christie. “She helps me pick out things that fit in my shop. I had no retail experience before this—it was crazy train to leave a good paying job to do this, but it’s worked.”
A big part of why it works, Christie believes, is the community the shop creates. “This is a happy place, bright and cheerful and someone’s always greeting you,” she says. (As if to prove her point, Christie called out “hellos” and “goodbyes” during our phone conversation, always referring to customers by name.) “Quilters are good people with big hearts. We’re having a good time and I don’t know what I’d do without these ladies in my life. When I was a police officer I was the only female and now I get to be around women, and women who are like me. We’re like one big family.”