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Tucked away three miles down a gravel drive on E. Flynn Road off Ky. 467 in Dry Ridge is a place that even long-term Grant County residents might not know exists, but to the hundreds of visitors who drive for miles and states away, the Quilt Box is a must stop.
With hundreds of bolts of bright fabric, needles, thread, knitting and embroidery supplies, knowledgeable staff and classes for the novice to advanced quilter, the Quilt Box has become a quilter’s delight.
The shop celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 6. It has been named one of the Top 10 Quilt Shops in North America by Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, as well as other articles in publications such as Quilt Sampler magazine and Treasures of Kentucky and Tennessee.
It’s that broad-based exposure, as well as treating customers like family that Natalie Lahner believes is the formula for success.
“My philosophy is that we are put here to help other people. I believe anyone who comes in my door deserves my respect and courtesy,” she said.
Lahner approached her late husband, Cliff, with the idea of opening a quilt shop in their log home after they’d moved to Grant County from Northern Kentucky.
“We wanted to find a farm with a little land and we found this,” Lahner said.
The first building on the property was a log cabin that was originally 10 miles away. Her son numbered the logs and re-constructed it on the farm.
It didn’t hurt that Natalie’s father had worked most his life in the construction business. She often helped him draw plans for a project, so it was only natural that she designed her home.
The old cabin became the family’s living room with a new home designed around it.
Because her husband traveled extensively for his job, she asked him about opening a quilt shop.
“He laughed, but was supportive,” she said.
With 60 bolts of fabric, she transformed the living room complete with its wood stove into the Quilt Box.
“I never really intended to do this, but I decided since he traveled I needed something to do and it’s been lots of fun. I love it here,” she said.
As the shop’s popularity grew, so did its space. A fabric room was added later, which is always stocked with colorful prints and patterns.
“The quilting end of the business hasn’t changed, it’s the style of quilt that has changed,” Lahner said.
She said today’s quilters, especially the younger ones, like bright, playful colors.
“They want something easy to make,” she said.
But the Quilt Box is more than just a fabric/quilt store. It is a farm with chickens, a fishing lake and cats.
It has “man benches,” which allow husbands to enjoy the country setting while their wives shop.
“I think people like it here because they find it peaceful,” she said. “I’ve always tried to tell my staff that people want attention and to feel good about coming to see you. It’s always good to put yourself out for people.”
Lahner was a student of interior design and feels that her specialty is color. She can often be found assisting a customer in picking out material, which is organized by color on the shop’s shelves.
“It’s fun to come in here in winter’s nasty months because there are all these beautiful colors and that can brighten up the gloomiest day,” she said.
The Quilt Shop offers classes from local and regional instructors February through April and in the fall. They also participate in two Shop Hops in July and October. Tour busses are also a common sight on the one-lane road leading back to the shop.
“All these things are so much fun and bring a lot of people in the shop. It’s great to see so many friends come back and visit,” she said.
The Quilt Shop employs six, including Lahner’s granddaughter, Tyler Koening, who serves as the shop’s manager. Many former employees were able to stop in for the 30th anniversary party.
“This is my favorite job,” said Deanna Balderson, an employee. “I’ve worked in a lot of different places and this is a nice, family place. Natalie is so wonderful to work for.”
“You get to know people and they become family,” Balderson said.
That was music to Lahner’s ears.
“If you treat people right, they’ll never forget that,” Lahner said.