For a time this past summer, it looked like the Mankato area was going to be without a local quilting shop. Sally Trask, the founder of River City Quilts, was getting ready to retire.

Photo by Don Lipps - Owner Laurel Ballman and employee Julia Oas stand ready to offer the help you need with your quilting project.
Photo by Don Lipps – Owner Laurel Ballman (right) and employee Julia Oas stand ready to offer the help you need with your quilting project.

“There were some interested buyers but for various reasons they backed out,” recalled Laurel Ballman. “So, the plan became to close the shop.”

Ballman began thinking that it would be a big loss if there was no place for the quilting community. So, she asked Trask about a selling price. “She came back a couple days later with a price so I talked to my husband. We already owned a beautiful building for the shop,” she said. “The owner of CuriosiTea had been renting it but she wanted to buy a building of her own. Our building was going to be empty at the same time Sally was going to be closing. We ran the numbers and made the decision to keep River City Quilts going!”

Renovation

Ballman and her husband, Randy, dug in to turn their rental property into a store of their own.

6:00 rolls around and sometimes it’s tough to believe it’s already time to close shop. We like what we do. We’re good at what we do. It’s just a great place to be!

“We started our work on August first. We left the tin ceilings as they were since they were still in awesome shape but we renovated almost everything else. It took probably three weeks just to build our shelves!”

Then, on September 15th, the new River City Quilts on the corner of Elm and Riverfront in Mankato opened its doors.

Mission

Photo by Don Lipps - Shop "boss," Avery, also the granddaughter of owner Laurel Ballman, is in charge of welcomes.
Photo by Don Lipps – Shop “boss,” Avery, also the granddaughter of owner Laurel Ballman, is in charge of welcomes.

“We are here to help our customers pick out colors or fabrics to make their quilts and other projects,” Ballman explained. “We also refer quilters in the area who can do machine quilting for those who want some help. We sell patterns and books and all the supplies. We try to be very customer oriented. We’ll try to answer any question. If we don’t know the answer it we’ll find it for them!

“We’re all about our customers. Our shop isn’t that big and there are always at least two of us here. We’re able and willing to help our customers in a unique way. We take the time to help prepare for that special quilt that they’re looking to do. As far as fabric and supplies, if we don’t have what they want in the shop, we’ll gladly order anything in for them.”

The Next Generation

Ballman hopes that the shop can help get a new generation of quilters interested in the craft. “In 2019 we plan on offering classes. Beginner classes are a great way of getting younger people involved. But, it’s not always just younger people that are drawn to that class. Sometimes we see people who have been out of sewing for many years. Our classes give them a chance to get back to their sewing machines and their sewing skills.”

There are great people here. There are fun things to do. I can’t see living any other place!

For the joy of it!

Photo by Don Lipps - River City Quilts - Mankato, MN
Photo by Don Lipps – River City Quilts – Mankato, MN

“I love what we do and the gals that I’ve got hired, they all love it too,” Ballman said. “6:00 rolls around and sometimes it’s tough to believe it’s already time to close shop. We like what we do. We’re good at what we do. It’s just a great place to be!

“I’m especially proud that I was able to keep this shop open! For me, for Mankato, for the quilters, for the area. If the shop closed, it would have been dearly missed. It would have been a loss for Mankato if we did not have a quilt shop. There’s quite a few quilters around. It’s a great group who love what they do, and they do beautiful work!”

Ballman is convinced that the Mankato area is worth the effort of owning a business. “I was born and raised in St. Peter,” she said. “Soon after my husband, Randy, and I were married he was transferred to Sioux Falls. He kept getting transferred farther and farther away from home and we knew we wanted to come back and be close to family.

“When the time came, Mankato was the place for us. There are great people here. There are fun things to do. I can’t see living any other place!”

River City Quilts offers their products in their store on Riverfront Drive in Mankato as well as on their website.

Additional Links

River City Quilts on Facebook
River City Quilts on Twitter
River City Quilts on MankatoLIFE

Don Lipps
A long-time resident of Mankato and North Mankato, Don is a veteran web developer. Don and his wife, Tina, have 5 grown boys and one daughter-in-law.