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Quilted Bear grew rapidly
Craft store chain started in 1992 in Midvale

Judy Dunford is the president and chief executive officer of The Quilted Bear, a chain of retail craft stores stretching from Nevada to Tulsa, Okla.Dunford opened the first Quilted Bear gift, collectible and home decor store after her husband's triple-bypass surgery. The mother of 10 children, Dunford decided to risk turning her part-time craft show business into a permanent store.

The first Quilted Bear store opened in 1992 in Midvale. Comprising 47,000 square feet and 650 booths, the Midvale store is believed to be the largest single craft, gift and home decor store in the nation.

Today, The Quilted Bear is a group of nine stores specializing in the sale of hand-crafted gifts and home decor, as well as commercial gift and collectible merchandise. Each store encompasses at least 20,000 square feet, with space for 300 or more craft booths.

Seven of the nine stores are now owned by members of the Dunford family.

Net annual sales from 1996 to 1998 declined nearly four percent, and pre-tax income fell over 62 percent. Dunford attributes the decline to increased competition and I-15 freeway construction, which interfered with access to stores.

The basis for The Quilted Bear's operation is a partnership between the store and its crafters. The store becomes a business agent for the participants, handling advertising, making product sales and collecting and paying sales tax. The crafters are able to sell their goods without having to be present at the booth, saving hours of "down time."

Future plans for the company include selling products on the Internet, and looking into reducing store size to present new opportunities for franchising or store licensing.

Plans are also under way to pass operating control and ownership of The Quilted Bear to the Dunford family.