Karen Snyder: Not quitting, just quilting

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX/Chinook Observer</I><BR>Karen Snyder is transitioning to a new phase of her life, giving up her retail business to concentrate on creative efforts centering on quilting.

LONG BEACH - After nearly 11 years of selling fabric, quilting items, gifts and goodies, Karen Snyder has announced that she will be closing up her Long Beach shop at 111 Bolstad Avenue East. Anna Lena's Quilt Shop is now in the state of "GOOBER," or going out of business for early retirement.

It all started back in 1988 when she started making cranberry fudge (with cranberries from the family bogs) and other products. Snyder opened up a gift shop in the Deux Chapeux building, selling cranberry products and gifts for two years. Little did she know how much her life would change when she decided to try her hand at quilting. On a whim, she tried her hand at selling a few fabrics out of her gift shop and it didn't take long before "the fabrics took over."

Her cranberry product line was sold to Dan Driscoll, who still sells them to this day under his WillaBay brand.

In the early days of her quilt shop, Snyder started with 300 bolts of fabric; she now has more than 5,000. Named a Top 10 Quilt Shop by American Patchwork and Quilting in 2006, Anna Lena's also carries gifts and 20 varieties of fudge.

These days she's also busy with designing 1930s reproduction print fabric for a company in New York.

"I'm drawn to the style and colors of that era," she explains. "It was such a tough time in the '30s during the Great Depression, but they were able to produce such beautiful quilts. I find it amazing that in the roughest of times people can still surround themselves with something beautiful."

She has written "Bundles of Fun," "Fat Quarter Fun," and most recently released, "Quilts From My Garden."

Around the age of 50, Snyder says she started developing her "exit strategy" - her plan to retire by the age of 55. Truly she is only really retiring from retail, since she plans to remain involved in quilting - designing fabrics and patterns, writing quilting books, and traveling the country to teach others about quilting.

With one book in the making and two more book ideas floating around in her head, Snyder's newest book, "Big Print Quilts" will be released in about two weeks.

"As for what I'm going to miss [from Anna Lena's], the biggest thing is the friendship - quilters are social people, and this is a gathering place for a lot of them. I'm going to miss the everyday contact with the public, but I still plan to be involved with the community and the quilting community, locally and nationally."

The silver lining of Snyder's closing is her GOOBER sale. All her store and annalena.com merchandise is 15 percent off (except for the tasty fudge). Buy four yards of fabric, get one yard free. Buy four kits, bundles, books, patterns, rulers or spools of thread, and get a fifth item free.

The 6,000 square foot Anna Lena's building and some of the fixtures will be available and are perfect for anyone who has dreamed of opening up their own quilting store. While still unsure how long it will take to liquidate her merchandise and start moving out, Snyder expects the store to close within four to five months. Her plan also includes "scaling back" her Web site, but she will continue to sell her own products there.

Quilters who are receiving the Blocks of the Month by mail will still receive them. Those who enjoy Saturday Sampler/My Little Town are still welcome to drop by during the remaining months. Any retreats scheduled for this fall are still going to be held.

The shop will continue to accept gift certificates and encourage folks to use them up. However, gift certificates will no longer be for sale.

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