DALLAS – Twenty-five years ago, Rachel Greco was between jobs and standing in an empty building.
“I said, ‘I could open a quilt shop,’ and then I did,” Greco said. “I started it from the ground up with absolutely nothing and not knowing what I was doing. I just decided I could do it, and I did it.”
A quarter of a century later, Grandma’s Attic regularly attracts quilters within a 60-mile radius of the downtown Dallas store, and sometimes visitors from much farther away.
For that reason, and many more, Grandma’s Attic is the 2019 Dallas Community Awards Business of the Year.
“I’m very seldom at a loss for words, and I was completely gob-smacked,” Greco said to receiving the award. “I didn’t see it coming, and I was very surprised. And also, very grateful.”
Greco was presented the award Friday at the annual Community Awards ceremony at the Majestic Theater in Dallas.
“I have a lot of support from my family and my employees,” Greco said. “Without them I could do nothing but sit in my chair and crochet.”
Her son, Kyle Baker, has a different take. He said he has a hard time keeping up with his mother.
“You know how James Brown is the hardest working man in show business?” he said. “She’s the hardest working women in small business. You do a lot of stuff here. You wouldn’t say that yourself.”
Likewise, Greco’s husband, Stephen Greco, said he had a different reaction than his wife.
“I wasn’t surprised. I think that it should have happened a long time ago,” he said.
Greco said she learned soon after opening Grandma’s Attic that she would have to pull customers from more than just the Dallas area.
“I realized very quickly that every quilter in Dallas supported my store, but there weren’t as many of those as there were in other places,” Greco said. “I worked really hard to figure out how to get people to come here.”
She began the store’s block-of-the-month program, where customers are sent a quilt block each month. Greco created a pattern company and bought two more, and even started designing her own quilt patterns. In 1997, Grandma’s Attic was among the first quilt shops with a website.
To bring customers through the doors, she participated in every “shop hop” she could. Shop hops have customers going from store to store to win prizes and take part in raffles, but also checking out shops they haven’t been to before.
They did something else, too, while visiting Grandma’s Attic: They spent time in Dallas going to other stores and eating in restaurants around town. Greco said she would often give recommendations to her customers of where to go in Dallas.
The unofficial visitors center status is one of the reasons Grandma’s Attic was selected for the award.
“They bring people in from all over the country, the world, to come in and go to classes and do their things. Then those folks go to restaurants and they stay in the hotels,” said JD Shinn, executive director of the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce, the award’s host.
Customers said Grandma’s Attic is more than just a destination for needle artists. Greco has created a place where everyone feels welcome.
“How many places are there for women to visit in Dallas?” said customer Debbie Kelley. “I don’t even know of a women’s book club here, except Bible studies.”
The store hosts “open sews” every Monday and Wednesday where people can bring their projects and work on them in the company of others. They can learn from each other, talk and enjoy the supply of treats readily available.
“We have cookies and popcorn, too,” Greco said.
“Well, we won’t go into that,” Kelley added. “We’ve all learned to wear elastic pants.”
Greco said she and the store have been longtime supporters of Sable House, the local domestic violence shelter. Her non-work hobby is crocheting baby blankets to donate to local organizations, or to hand out to any expectant mother she meets.
A gifted storyteller and historian, Greco will give talks that blend quilt history with Oregon history, especially from the perspective of women.
“She doesn’t just teach quilting there, she teaches history classes there,” said Shelly Jones, the marketing director for DACC. “Women’s history, Dallas history, Oregon history through women’s eyes.”
Greco has three topics of conversation that are off limits in her store: Religion, politics and weight.
“When I first opened the shop, I wanted a place where all people could feel comfortable in here,” she said. “I started thinking about what are things that tend to divide people, and I just eliminated them.”
She said she’s not anti-religion but wants to avoid the discussing denominational differences.
With politics, it’s talking about actions of living politicians that are banned from the store.
“We don’t talk about politics unless they are all dead,” she said. “We can talk about Hamilton and Jefferson and how much they hated each other because they are dead, and nobody cares.”
As for weight, she said “all women seem to be messed up about body image in some way.”
“If you eliminate those three things, the only thing left is the creative needle arts. I just tell people we are one with the fabric,” Greco said. “That’s what I do, and it’s worked really well because it keeps us all united and happy, concentrating on creating heirlooms for a future generation.”