There are a lot of unsung heroes and heroines who make sure that Moda fabrics are on the shelves of your favorite quilt shop. We thought it would be fun to introduce you this diverse group of women and men.
Moda Fabrics + Supplies is very proud of our salespeople and it’s corporate business team. Over the years, despite many changes, it’s always been an equal mix of women and men that have proudly served the quilt shop and quilt-making community for more than forty years.
They crisscross the country in all kinds of weather, sharing samples of the latest and greatest Moda offerings with quilt shop owners. Many of them have been at it for decades and not only share samples, but tips and tricks that help shop owners make the most of what Moda has to offer. I’ve had many shop owners tell me how much they look forward to their rep arriving, and how helpful she or he has been.
The life of a rep isn’t easy. They can be on the road more than 100 nights a week – make that year! – and must live out of their car as they drive long hours between shops. But the fact that many have been with Moda for so long means there are some pleasures, too. We thought we’d ask the reps about how they spend their days, what they listen to pass the long hours, and about some of their favorite repping memories. You might even get a tip or two about how to book the best hotels!
First up are the reps fondly known to many as The Three Amigos: Mark Pytel, Richard Cubbage, and Michael Pagano. These long-time reps and friends are all on the East Coast.
Mark Pytel (AKA Moda Mark):Mark has the record for the longest stint in Moda’s sales department—he’s in his 26thyear. His current sales route includes much of the eastern Midwest: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
How often are you out on the road?
Mark: Several nights each week, almost every week of the year. That adds up to 3,300 nights of overnight lodging and 1,300,000 miles via minivan (15 vehicles over the years) traveling to small and smaller towns, through four full seasons of weather. I stay in hotels 125-plus nights each year.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Mark: I visit at least ten shops each week, and a meeting usually runs between one and two hours. I usually have a quick breakfast and almost never a lunch. I have snacks and water in the vehicle during the day, when needed, and at the end of the day I usually patronize a nicer restaurant, near or in the town I need to be in the next day. Early departures and late arrivals in the sales territory can makes for long days. Traffic and weather have tested my ability to stay on a schedule.
That schedule sounds grueling. What do you enjoy about being a rep?
Mark: Attending over 250 shows throughout the years, there have been lots of long days of fun in the exhibits, meeting with our valued customers, and lots of long evenings of fun socializing with everyone in our wonderful industry, especially at the Moda Customer Parties during Quilt Markets. I enjoy assisting and advising customers on ways to succeed in business, with the support of Mr. Mark Dunn, executives, directors, fellow sales representatives, and employees of Moda Fabrics + Supplies.
In your off hours, what do you do for fun?
Mark: I try to make the most of time at home and recharge and reorganize for the next week’s travel. My wife Diana and I travel to metropolitan areas to nicer hotels and restaurants (mostly quick trips).
I enjoy Cleveland Browns Games, Cleveland Indians Games, LIVE Home Free Vocal Band Concerts (these guys are really great!), and playing cards and hanging out with my brothers and old buddies from Cleveland, Ohio.
Mark also told us that he and Diana have been married for 27 years and have a three-year-old grey cat named Bella, in honor of Bella solids. He’s even matched the Bella solid “Graphite” to Bella the cat.
Mark also shared a quote from Albert Schweitzer: “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats,” which gets at another important part of his life—music. Mark spent more than 20 years performing in an “all-occasion wedding band” with his twin brothers in northeastern Ohio. (You can read more about it here: http://blog.modafabrics.com/2011/07/modamark-pytel/
He says that music has had a dramatic and positive influence on his life and that many of his closest friends are fellow musicians who approach life with sincerity and creativity. Though he’s not currently playing music, he enjoys listening to music while he drives his route and attending live concerts when possible. He is especially drawn to rock, jazz, classical, and his current favorite, a capella. Mark knows his Moda…and his melodies!
Next up is Richard Cubbage, who says “I have been a Modaman for 25 years.” He lives in Virginia and his territory includes most of his home state, plus Maryland, Delaware, southern New Jersey and most of Pennsylvania.
Richard: I spend about 50 nights a year in hotels. I use Priceline.com for most of my hotel reservations. As their motto states: “Three star rooms at two star prices” and I can typically stay in a Hilton or Marriott property for a price comparable to a Comfort Inn.
What’s life like on the road and how do you keep yourself occupied between shop stops?
Richard: It’s lonely driving many miles between stops. I listen to a lot of Sirius XM and Spotify. Radio Margaritaville, No Shoes Nation on Sirius, and Mark Knopfler on Spotify also keep me company. We Three Amigos (Richard, Mark, and Michael) text and talk throughout the day. And sometimes we do guy weekends—we talk about work, but have fun, too. It’s a meeting of the minds.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Richard: I enjoy the independence—being able to get out and meet people outside of four walls. If I’m asked, I enjoy being able to help my customers with suggestions about display and marketing. I feel like I’m a partner with my accounts and I’m invested in their success.
What’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had on the road?
Richard: That would probably be the time I had to catch a snake in a quilt shop. It was about five years ago at a store in Maryland and the owner had a little Pomeranian. The owner and I were in another room and that dog started going crazy barking, so we went to see what was wrong. The dog was barking at a display that included peach baskets and I saw a little snake scurrying behind one. Then the dog chased it behind the fabric racks and the employees were freaking out. I shouted “I’ll get him,” but halfway down to picking him up I realized he was a weird shade of green I’d never seen before. Someone gave me a long rod and I dispatched the snake. All the while the little Pomeranian was going crazy. When it was over, the dog seemed very proud and took a nap.
Phew! Who new fabric repping could be so wild? In your off hours, what do you do for fun?
Richard: My wife Robyn and I really enjoy gardening. We’ve got raised beds and put a greenhouse in our backyard. I’m the vegetable gardener and my wife is more the flower gardener. We also really like to travel. Last year we spent 15 days in Spain and ate our way across the country. Which brings me to the third thing I enjoy—cooking. It’s probably my main hobby and weekends are my big time to cook. I try everything from barbecue to haute cuisine. I like trying to recreate great meals I’ve eaten at nice restaurants around the world. This weekend we’re having friends over for tapas.
Last, but not least is the third amigo, Michael Pagano. He is in his 21styear as a sales rep for Moda and his territory is New England—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Michael: I enjoy being a Moda sales rep particularly because the company is very organized, and has consistently strong, well-received fabric collections. In addition, Mr. Dunn has created a family environment where I feel appreciated and cared about.
I also really enjoy my customers. The people and relationships are what I value most. I also really do enjoy helping quilt shop owners decide which prints to “put together” to make a beautiful, well-rounded collection. Focal print, blender, multi, small scale, medium scale, dark, light, etc.
How often are you on the road and what do to pass the time on your drives? Listening favorites? Snacks?
Michael: I am on the road regularly, yet do take office days. Weekends pretty much free. My favorite time to drive is early morning. Over the years I have listened to everything: books on tape, foreign language tapes, radio talk shows, shock jocks, folk, hip hop, rap, classical, rock, jazz, easy listening, hard rock, techno, dance, etc. Lately it is mostly news, like NPR. Oh, and I have to, have to, have to have an espresso drink. Latte, cappuccino, ristretto, etc. No coffee, too harsh for my stomach.
How did you get started in the fabric business?
Michael: I started in my territory in 1987. I was 26 years old. I was the Concord Fabrics sales rep. On my very first call, to my first customer, I did not sell one piece of fabric. She did have a bolt to return. So I started out at Negative One. She had a lovely personality, like most quilt shop owners, and I did enjoy working with her. I knew the sales would come, but really, Minus One to begin! (Aren’t those of you who work with Michael glad he didn’t give up?)
That’s it for this time around. We’ll bring you more stories from more reps in the next few months. In the meantime, have you ever worked with Mark, Richard, or Micheal? Any stories you’d like to share?