Ten years ago, when Tresa Miller was planning to open Grateful Threads Fabric & Furnishings, she was faced with the decision of where to purchase a building for her store. Should she choose the rural, but future retail hub of Burkhardt Road or head to Downtown Evansville where retail hadn’t prospered since the glory days of Main Street?
In December 2004, Miller and her husband Brent purchased the former Earl Scheib Paint & Body at 426 Carpenter St., which had been sitting vacant for 11 years. The space needed more than a little work, but it had high ceilings, a classroom, a garage, and space to grow — and they knew it was the one.
“We thought about it, but every time we’ve gone shopping for fabric out of town we go to the warehouse districts where grown men wouldn’t go after dark,” says Miller, who opened Grateful Threads on March 1, 2005. “Think about going shopping for fabric in Nashville or St. Louis — you go to these dingy locations. We were going to be a destination location. There isn’t anyone who leaves the house, sees my shop and says, ‘I think I’ll redo my sofa.’ No way. They leave the house with an armchair cover in one hand. They leave prepared with their paint chip, their carpet sample, and paint can lid.”
Miller’s home décor fabric store celebrates its 10th anniversary in March, which makes it the oldest currently surviving retail business in Downtown Evansville. The 6,500-square-foot store sells hundreds of fabrics and trim, furnishings, and offers in-house design service and appointments in your home or office.
Before owning Grateful Threads, Miller worked as a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual for 12 years before an opportunity to purchase a fabric store sparked her interest in starting her own. The timing was flawless for Miller, because just as she was leaving the finance industry, she joined the DIY, or Do-It-Yourself phenomenon, and at the same time, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression occurred.
“The recession hit and God had us in the palm of His hand,” says Miller of Evansville. “Our tag line has been ‘Don’t buy new, redo.’ And all of a sudden, the whole DIY movement took off. The economy was tight and people saw the wisdom of recycling, redoing, repurposing; people would come in and say, ‘My sofa is really in good shape, it’s just really ugly.’ We fix ugly all day, everyday.”
For more information about Grateful Threads, call 812-402-0053 or visit gratefulthreadsfabric.com.