Sewing Machines By B&B to close (w/video)

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.

Owner of Sewing Machines By B&B in Victoria Billie Stehling, of Victoria, stands next to shelves of unclaimed sewing machines brought in by customers for repair during her store's 28 years of being in business.

Owner of Sewing Machines By B&B in Victoria Billie Stehling, of Victoria, stands next to shelves of unclaimed sewing machines brought in by customers for repair during her store's 28 years of being in business.   IAN TERRY for The Victoria Advocate

Billie and Billy Stehling, of Sewing Machines By B&B, are cutting the thread on their 28-year business venture.

The business will close Wednesday, and the couple will begin a new venture.

"We're just at that age that we want to retire," said Billie Stehling, 65.

She and her husband hope to do more traveling around the state and spend more time with their nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They also look forward to spending more time helping others through their volunteer work at the DeWitt County Jail.

"We do it a couple days a week. It's a blessing to do that," said Billy Stehling, 67.

The Stehlings made the decision to close Sewing Machines By B&B as early as Jan. 1, 2013. Because they were not able to find someone to take over the business, area tailors, seamstresses and hobbyists will have to find other ways to get their machines repaired.

"We did about 1,000 machines a year," said Billy Stehling.

He serviced sewing machines in the back room of the small business, which was a doughnut shop and later a barbecue restaurant before the sewing business.

The last major repair he did was completed in August. If someone came in with a machine that needed a minor repair after that, he would fix it free of charge.

Billy Stehling has always been able to fix things, but he had to take classes and undergo training to learn to work on the computerized machines.

"Almost all the machines are computerized now," Billie Stehling said. "A lot of the industry has gone to computer machines."

She admits the machines are easier to use because pushing a button can now do the work of turning a knob. The older machines required manual adjustments and more time, she said, and now, you can toggle through choices programmed into the machine.

Beulah Muschalek, of Victoria, visited the shop during the last days of business, finding a few odds and ends left on the walls and thumbing through the stacks of books on the tables. Next to the double-door entrance stood a table labeled in handwritten block letters "free," filled with thread and lace and other items.

Sewing Machines by B&B also offered sewing and quilting classes for beginners up to advanced sewers.

"My granddaughter used to come to their summer class," said Muschalek, 66. "We're sad to see it close."

Now, her 10-year-old granddaughter, Emily, will have to find something else to do during the summer, she said. "Emily enjoyed the class."

Billy Stehling also repaired a sewing machine for Muschalek at one time. She wonders where she'll go to get work done if something needs fixing now.

"Victoria doesn't have anyone else who does repairs," she said.

That's a concern many of the Quilt Guild of Greater Victoria members have, including Pat Powell.

She attended her first quilting class with Billie Stehling 10 years ago and made a lot of friends there in the process.

"It's sad to see them close," Powell said.

Though she's seeing the business come to an end, Powell is happy to hear that Billie Stehling will be attending meetings for the Quilt Guild soon.

The new routine will take some getting used to, the Stehlings said. They won't be bringing their leftovers to the business to eat for lunch, and they won't have to write down reminders in the middle of the night to do this or that.

But there is one thing that Billy Stehling is going to miss - the way he knew every time his wife had sold a sewing machine.

"She just let out a different kind of laugh," he said, beaming at her. "I would hear in the back, and I just knew."

Sewing has its place near and dear to Billie Stehling's heart. She's glad to have spent so much time in the community teaching people how to sew and make quilts and selling machines to students who took classes as children.

"It was wonderful," she said. "I love to sell the sewing machines."



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