WESTMINSTER — While Elaine M. Esworthy moves material through her sewing machine, her husband, Herb, ensconced in a rocking chair, works on a quilt patch.
The couple are not passing a cozy afternoon by the fireplace. They are stitching the stuff that fills the shelves and hangs on the walls at Lacy Place, a crafts shop in the 140 Village Shopping Center.
As customers drop in, the sewing stops and friendly conversation begins.
"I love answering people's questions about our crafts," said Herb.
Customers are the business, not a distraction, for her craft work, said Elaine, as she looks up from her machine. Those patrons also promote the business.
"I am so lucky, my customers give me the best advertising," said Elaine.
Vickie Schoonmaker was so pleased with custom-made pillows, she was back in the shop with swatches and asking for matching accessories.
The center, on Route 140, is the second home for Lacy Place, which the Esworthys operated for seven years on Main Street. They closed in 1988 and took their work home with them, selling their crafts at area shows. Three weeks ago, they reopened.
Pillows, dolls, quilts, craft patterns and supplies fillthe 800 square feet. Aprons, with quilted bibs, hang from clothes trees. Wreaths, adorned with dried flowers from the Esworthy garden, decorate the walls. The scent of eucalyptus leaves fills the air.
Many former customers already have stopped in to say welcome back, saidElaine.
"I tell people I took a three-year vacation," said Elaine. "Actually, I kept working at home and have inventory for the shelves."
Customers often stopped her at craft shows to tell her how much they missed Lacy Place. Elaine said she always saw another shop in her future. Parking problems kept her from another Main Street location.
"I liked the people and the merchants on Main Street," she said. "But a lot of my customers got parking fines."
During her self-imposed hiatus, she said, she also has learned to pace herself.
"Making everything we sold in our store, staying open six days a week, doing craft shows and holding classes just got to be too much," she said.
The time was right to try a retail business again, she said. With Herb planning to retire soon as a truck driver, he'll be able tocontribute more hours both in selling and sewing.
"I showed him how to do quilting a few years ago," said Elaine. "Now he also does counted cross stitch and candlewicking."
The Esworthys' three married daughters also supply the store with crafts, and their 15-year-old son makes jewelry.
"This is a real family affair," she said with asmile. "Everybody has the chance to make bucks here."
The shop stocks a few consignment items, like braided rugs and ceramics.
"If there is something we don't make that interests our customers, we will try to get it," she said.
Lacy Place won't compete with fabric stores, but it does carry unusual patterns, fabrics and stencils.
About the first of the year, the Esworthys will again "relax" and conduct classes in quilting, sewing and painting.
"People often see things they would like to make," she said. "We show them how."
Also,back on the shelves are old-time Santas.
The natural-colored pecan shell and resin figures, dressed in the costumes of different countries, wait for a Sunday afternoon painting class.
Ideas are no problem, time to craft them is.
"We can do all kinds of things," she said. "All we need are lots of hours."
In the pre-holiday season, Lacy Place will probably be open seven days a week and a few evenings. After the Christmas rush, however, the Esworthys have promised themselves two days off a week.