In Articles, Business

Whalen & Thayer at the 2019 Fabric Bash launch.

Updated on August 29, 2022

Fabric Bash is putting Nebraska on the national quilting map with a massive expansion in Omaha that is expected to draw quilters from across the country. COVID-19 has touched nearly every small business in a negative way while forcing many to close permanently. Fabric Bash, a January 2019 start-up in southwest Omaha, not only beat the moribund financial odds, but the family-owned textile, quilting, and arts and crafts store prospered and will soon be moving to a much larger space in La Vista at 10351 Portal Road. Owned by Cathy Thayer and Jacob Whalen, the co-founders have set out to create a unique experience for quilting and sewing enthusiasts. What they’ve created is unparalleled in Nebraska and throughout the Midwest or anywhere for that matter. Fabric Bash is as unique as its co-founders.

Fabric Bash’s “grand unveiling” is scheduled for 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, and will run until 6 p.m. that day. Fabric Bash’s 2½ -year-old location at 11019 I Street will close July 31 at 4 p.m. The “grand unveiling” will feature a number of promotions, including an end-of-the-day giveaway of a Janome 3160Q0V, a $999 value.

Co-owner Cathy Thayer admitted: “It was scary when COVID-19 appeared. We quickly adapted and started a curbside pickup service. We went with a different point of sale that helped, and it was a huge learning curve. In the long run, we managed the pandemic well because everyone involved in this popular hobby needed a sewing machine or had to have a machine serviced. Plus, masks were made from fabric, so it turned out to be a win-win.”

People will be shocked when they walk through the doors of Fabric Bash in Omaha. It’s a unique experience. ~ Joseph Kenney

The idea of a small business expanding more than 18 months after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and caused massive shutdowns, Omaha-area business consultant Joseph Kenney said, is astounding.

Joseph Kenney, of 316 Strategy Group, said: “Fabric Bash is a great story coming out of COVID-19. Cathy and Jacob have defied the odds and pushed the limits of what’s possible and they’ve put the quilting world on notice!”

Whalen said: “We love serving the quilting community and are looking forward to doing that in a bigger way. In terms of space, we will be the largest quilt store in the Omaha area. We are Omaha’s only longarm rental store, and we have several other exclusives: the only Janome in Omaha; the only Juki dealer in Nebraska, and the only APQS store in Nebraska. We are the fastest-growing fabric store in the Omaha area, maybe even in the Midwest.” Fabric Bash has become a tourist destination for many throughout Nebraska and Iowa. Whalen said: “We’re excited to be part of the tourism industry in Omaha and the state of Nebraska.”

We’re excited to be part of  the tourism industry in Omaha and the state of Nebraska. There’s something for everyone at Fabric Bash. ~ Jacob Whalen

As a result of COVID-19, Fabric Bash’s online presence grew out of necessity. The business continues to produce a Facebook Live event, “Bash Therapy,” every Monday at 6 p.m., in which Fabric Bash shows its latest collections. “We have now added Bash Bonanza, a comment-sold sales. Our store is all online through Shopify. While we are on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, we are working on our presence on TikTok and YouTube,” Cathy said. Social media nicely compliments the unique humor of the Fabric Bash Culture.

“Cathy and Jacob are embracing technology to introduce quilting to a younger generation as well as to men. They have the perfect personalities for challenges and innovation. Their wit and humor have stood out during the darkness caused by COVID-19,” said Joe, whose 316 Strategy Group is recognized nationally for its bottom-lined digital media results.

With the new store, Fabric Bash will have a much larger classroom. “Our class schedule is growing daily, and we will continue to offer Facebook Live with our classes. During one of our first new-store events, we will hold an exclusive Janome and Kimberbell event on Aug. 20 and 21st. Janome will bring an educator to run the event, which is very exciting,” Cathy said.

Overall, Cathy said, Fabric Bash has been ecstatic to see its business grow. “When we started,” she said, “we had just 250 bolts of fabric. We now have more than 2,500 bolts, with a lot more on the way. We have expanded in many other ways, more notions, more thread, and another thread line. I’d like to emphasize that we are an APQS Store and have replaced two machines with the latest models. We formerly had just Millies, but we now have a Millie, Lucey, and Lenni. A third one is on the way, a Millie 30, which will be the largest machine.”

Cathy recalled the early days when she had a business in her basement, longarming for others.

“Jacob and my daughter Anna were newly married. Jacob had always wanted to start his own business. He was an electrician at the time. I joked that he should become my machine repair guy. He thought that might be a great idea, and it turns out that it was. He is a co-owner and instrumental in the management of the entire operation,” Cathy explained.

“Fast-forward to June 2020, when Anna and Jake were pregnant with their second baby. We knew it was time to get a place where the babies could come. This is a family-run business, and we want to help take of our family. At the time of the purchase, we were in Janome sales. Jacob became a certified repair tech with Janome and has been to advance training. We have tripled sales in the past two years. And we have added two more certified repair technicians to join Jacob.”

Pointing her journey in perspective, Cathy pointed out: “The business is still a relatively new thing, but it feels as if it is getting easier. Support comes from every age group. Quilting is something that’s passed down from each generation, a legacy thing. The older people will tell you it keeps their minds young. It is an artsy thing. It can be a lot of work, but it is worth it, a fulfilling hobby. Of course, to keep the business going, we need to generate a steady income, but it’s not just money. It’s a family deal for us, and we provide all we can for the quilting community.”

Serving All 50 States

Fabric Bash has quickly become a destination for quilters across the country. According to Thayer, Fabric Bash has now served quilters across all 50 states. An incredible accomplishment, that very few businesses can even imagine of.

Fabric Bash, is not only Omaha’s quilting and fabric store, it is now being included in the same conversations as the famed Missouri Star Quilt Company in Northwestern Missouri. Missouri Star Quilt Company has 12 quilt shops in Hamilton, Missouri, and has become a destination for quilters from all over the world. According to Forbes Magazine, Missouri Star drives an eye-dropping $50 million in annual revenue.

The transition from a mom & pop quilt store to a national destination for quilters across the country has been humbling for Thayer and her team at Fabric Bash in Omaha.

Quilters visiting Omaha’s Fabric Bash have the opportunity to put a pin on a large-scale wall map right inside the entrance. Quilters are also encouraged to take pictures with a “quilted” TripAdvisor Owl and post them to Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

Thayer and her team have built their national presence through the use of social media platforms like TikTok & Instagram and they encourage other business owners to do the same.

Omaha is home to other quilt shops like Celtic Quilter, Country Sampler, The Quilted Moose, and others. All boats rise in a high tide and that couldn’t be more true for the influence of Fabric Bash on the quilting community in Omaha. The interest in quilting among younger demographics has sky-rocketed due to the savvy use of social media by Thayer and her social media team.

Quilting isn’t just for women. Omaha’s quilting mecca, Fabric Bash, is seeing an influx of men visiting their store in Omaha.

Nebraska has a new tourist destination! The Nebraska State Fair, The Henry Doorly Zoo, The Old Market, and Fabric Bash!


Fabric Bash details: Owner, Cathy Thayer. New address, opened Aug. 7, 10351 Portal Road, La Vista, Nebraska 68128. Phone, (402) 884-2096. Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed: Sunday. Website, https://www.fabricbash.com/  Email address, [email protected] Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/fabricbash/ Classes, Call or email to check on availability.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Angela Harr

    What great story! Hoping for more good things to come for you guys.

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