Casey’s Crafts enjoys anomalous growth amid recession

Casey's Crafts owner Laurie Davenport gets a demonstration of a new Bernina sewing machine that can be programmed to apply designs and text onto a pillow or stuffed animal. Casey's has recently started selling sewing machines and currently has three models of the Bernina brand in stock.

With most businesses on the island feeling the pinch of the economy, one business may be pinching itself for its good fortune.

Casey’s Crafts in Bayview is expanding while others are downsizing.

Recently, national business reports have shown the craft industry to be one of the least affected by the economic downturn, with most crafts stores reporting an increase in business compared to sales from last year.

“We’re up about 8 percent from this time last year,” Casey’s owner Laurie Davenport said.

Several factors have bolstered those numbers, including an increase in homemade gifts during the holidays and a decrease in competition on the island.

With the closing of Island Fabrics in Freeland this past fall, Casey’s Crafts has taken on the needs of the island’s sewing community.

The craft store has increased its supply of fabrics with about 60 new bolts, including a new line of cotton, batik cotton and rayon batik fabrics, in addition to more choices in batting and its regular lines of polar fleeces, velvet, canvas and upholstery fabrics. It has also added McCall’s patterns to its new inventory.

The store carries a new line of European, high-quality threads from the Mettler brand to go with its brand-new supply of Bernina sewing machines.

“We wanted to satisfy the supply of machines, notions and fabrics that sewing customers on the island depend on,” Davenport said.

The store now carries three models of the Swiss-made Bernina, one a high-tech digital machine which, among other tricks, can translate images and text onto fabric with a little programming.

Having lived on Whidbey since 1971 with a 20-year career as a nurse, Davenport bought the store three years ago when it was in danger of closing, though she still does nursing part-time.

“I had been a regular customer here since it opened; it got me through a battle with breast cancer,” Davenport said.

“I didn’t want to see it close.”

Several employees who were there from the beginning back in 1991 are glad she did.

Carla Walsh, Vivian Morley, Carlene Levty and Patty Currier have been employed at the craft store for more than 17 years and are thrilled by Davenport’s influence.

“She’s done wonders for this store,” Currier said.

“My daughter learned to knit here with Ann O’Farrell,” Davenport said.

“I wasn’t going to let it close.”

O’Farrell is one of many local artists and craftspeople who teach regular classes at Casey’s, many donating their services.

O’Farrell’s group, “Knit Wits,” is open to anyone by donation and all proceeds go to the support of the Good Cheer Food Bank.

Other classes include sewing, ribbon purse, felting, machine embroidery, beading, scrapbooking and art classes.

Davenport said she is pleased to see that Casey’s Crafts provides a destination for young people to hone their craft skills.

“There are a lot of kids who come here to create things and that is great to see happening,” she said.

Davenport had recently attended the Craft and Hobby Association’s annual convention in Anaheim, Calif. where more than 1,000 vendors showed their wares.

She came back with new ideas for the store including more scrapbooking supplies, a new order of appliqués to come in soon, a new line of felting supplies called “Artfelt,” and some new roving materials.

The store had previously expanded its art supplies section after Bayview Arts closed at Bayview Corner. Casey’s Crafts offers other materials such as supplies for printing, fabric painting, woodworking, beading, flower and basket arrangements, party decorations and even supplies for the Webkin craze. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With the recent addition of sewing machine sales through Bernina dealer The Needle & I in Everett, Casey’s has also brought on a machine maintenance and repair team, S&J Sewing Services.

Adding new people, classes and supplies is necessary for the ever-bustling crafts store, and its owner doesn’t see a slump coming anytime soon.

“I’m just so pleased that our customers are so supportive,” Davenport said.

To find out more about the store and its classes, drop in for a schedule or visit click here or call 321-0577.

Casey’s Crafts is located off Highway 525 in Bayview next to Casey’s Red Apple:

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