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A slice of local life -- Tammie and Kaitlin Eckert: Still learning

Every Thread Counts — ETC to locals — celebrated its one-year anniversary May 1 under the new ownership of mother-daughter team Tammie and Kaitlin Eckert.

The business will celebrate at its new location in the old Wine Sellers space, 514 State St., on June 17.

The Eckerts — Tammie and husband Joe, son Max and Kaitlin — are originally from the East Coast, moving from Sandy Hook, Conn., to Mosier in 2011.

“My husband is a private consultant and had a client in Seattle we would visit every two weeks forever,” said Tammie. During one of their trips, the Eckerts also visited Portland, and, following “the wine trail,” ended up in Hood River.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Having fallen in love with the Gorge, the family bought a house in Mosier in January 2011. They split their time between Sandy Hook and Mosier so Max could finish high school. Tammie and Kaitlin began setting up house in March, Max gradated June 22, and “the moving truck pulled up at the driveway (in Sandy Hook) at 8 a.m. on June 23 and headed to Oregon, said Tammie.

It wasn’t until the next year that the opportunity to purchase ETC arose.

Tammie learned that Ann Zuehlke, ETC’s former owner, was selling the business through the store’s email newsletter. As she read, her husband walked by and asked what she was doing. “I said I was reading the quilt shop newsletter and it was going up for sale, and he said, ‘You should buy it,’” said Tammie.

So she did.

The first thing Tammie and Kaitlin did was look for a new location. They wanted something more visible than the Nix Drive locale, with easier access and more opportunity for foot traffic. They looked a number of properties, finally settling on the old Wine Sellers location owned by John Stoltz.

“John did a nice job with the remodeling,” said Tammie. Stoltz installed new floors, painted walls, and put in special daylight light bulbs “to keep everyone happy.”

“We joke that you can’t be SAD in here,” said Tammie, referring to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a common complaint in the overcast wintertime. Another benefit: It keeps the color of the fabric true.

The move has paid off — the store enjoys a steady stream of customers, both from regulars and those exploring downtown.

“People come in all the time looking for sandwiches and they’re like, ‘Oh! Quilts!’” said Kaitlin.

“Which is what we want,” added Tammie.

The Eckerts kept all of ETC’s employees. Marbe Cook, Pat Still, Gayle Jacobson, Zoe Purnell, Lorna Greenwood and Marie Pickering still come in for their regular shifts.

“They have their followings,” said Tammie. “We have customers who come in when they know they’re working.”

Tammie and Kaitlin work in different areas of the business. Both help customers, but Tammie takes care of the financial aspects, while Kaitlin focuses on technology and the store newsletter. “I don’t do money stuff,” Kaitlin said.

Neither had experience owning a business before purchasing ETC. Tammie describes herself as a stay-at-home mom who was once a state-certified childcare provider in New Jersey. “Now I’m learning how to run a business,” she said.

She went to a national Quilt Market last May in Portland and learned she “did everything backwards. They say, ‘don’t move shop right away; you should do an inventory analysis.’

“But hey, we’re still in business and we’re doing exceptionally well,” said Tammie.

The Eckerts’ favorite aspect of the business is the fabric. “My husband says it’s not my private stash and I must share it with customers,” joked Tammie, to which Kaitlin replied, “That’s debatable.”

They also enjoy being part of the area’s quilting community. “It’s a fun group of women,” said Tammie. Having been a quilter for only six years, she feels like she’s still learning. Tammie and Kaitlin enjoy seeing projects, both in the works and finished, that women bring in. “Our regulars come in like clockwork,” said Kaitlin. “We’ll say, ‘So-and-so should be here pretty soon . . .’”

One organization dear to the family’s heart is the Hukari Animal Shelter in Odell. They have six dogs, seven cats and seven turtles of their own, but Kaitlin and Joe volunteer at the shelter on Saturdays and the family fosters dogs throughout the week. A new foster dog comes each Saturday to ETC, and there are customers who stop by purposely to see the new animal.

“We’re all-encompassing,” laughed Tammie, who adds that having dogs at the store gives the shelter extra exposure. They’ve helped two dogs find homes this way; one with a customer from Portland who came back to adopt. And they have kept two dogs themselves — one was pregnant when they got her, and they kept her and one of the puppies. They also actively fundraise for the shelter. During the Blossom Fest Quilt Show held at the fairgrounds, they raised $350.

Kaitlin misses her friends on the East Coast, but overall, both are happy to be in the Gorge. “People are much friendlier here,” said Kaitlin.

“There’s an openness here, a friendliness, and hardly any traffic,” said Tammie.

They also enjoy working with each other. “We get each other,” said Tammie. “We joke that we have ESPN. We finish each other’s sentences.”

“It happens a lot,” agreed Kaitlin.

ETC is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the store at 541-386-5044, email everythreadcounts@gmail.com, or visit www.everythreadcounts.net.

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