“You enter as a stranger, but you will leave as a friend.”
That’s the motto of downtown Sandusky’s Ethel’s Quilt Shoppe and its owner Jackie Sennish.
Considering the popularity of the store, both in its physical iteration and its online community, Sennish has many, many friends.
Sennish, who began quilting at age 14, opened what was then known as M & E Quilt Shoppe (“M” for Mabel and “E” for Ethel) on Market Street in 2014 with friend Debbie Neill (aka Mabel).
“Mabel and Ethel were just nicknames we had for one another before the shop, so when it came time to open, we just decided to use them because quilting is an old art and those were our ‘old lady names,’” Sennish says.
Sometimes, Sennish says, she even forgets Ethel isn’t her real name.
The duo operated together until June of 2023 when Neill retired. Not ready to hang up her quilting needles quite yet, Sennish decided to go it alone. In order to do this, she closed the storefront for 3.5 months to take on renovations.
Ethel's Quilt Shoppe offers in-house dyed wool. (Photo/Kevin Lee)
“I took it in a slightly different direction focusing on more reproduction/Civil War fabrics, hand-dying my own wool in-house and also selling beautiful furniture from Town & Country Furnishings,” she says. “But the Quilt Shoppe can be found in the same location it’s always been– just with a facelift.”
That facelift included tearing out carpeting, which revealed the original hardwood floors from 1884, which she has refinished. With fresh paint and a more coordinated use of black display pieces, these changes have made the shop “cozy, inviting and much more open.”
Born and raised in Sandusky, Sennish shares that she has always loved the space where the shop is located at 279 E. Market St. Ruth Parker first bought the space in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Sennish has a personal connection to the spot as well.
“My father, Robert W. Schaefer Sr., was the contractor that remodeled the building at that time,” she says. “I now have one of his old wood ladders that he used for work to display pieces in the shop and hold my fabrics and quilts.”
Despite the renovations and inventory additions, some things haven’t changed – like Sennish’s charm, warmth and sense of humor.
“We like to have fun, and we like to laugh,” she says.
Ethel's offers quilting supplies and more. (Photo/Kevin Lee)
Quilters, Sennish says, are a group of like-minded people who are very giving and talented, and she has met some of the most wonderful customers – now her closest friends - both in person and online.
Online may seem a strange thing to mention for a quilt shop, but not for Ethel’s.
Born out of necessity to keep business thriving in 2020, Mabel and Ethel began “ME Time” (a play on the Mabel and Ethel names). The Thursday Facebook Lives were an opportunity for Neill and Sennish to feature new products.
Now that “Ethel” is the sole owner, the sessions are called “Just Me Time with Ethel.”
Additionally, “Evenings with Ethel” is online every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. with a private Facebook Group. Currently more than 1,600 members from all over the world tune in to stitch together.
“Members can have their own project, or we have one that we choose to do as a group,” Sennish says.
January’s project is a Scrappy Pear Pincushion in which customers can learn different embroidery stitches together.
The online family began as a way to connect during the pandemic, but in 2024, Ethel is looking forward to in-house weekly stitch groups along with plans for some off-sight retreats.
For information on the shop, its programming or products, visit the Ethel’s Quilt Shoppe Facebook page
Current store hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and noon- 5 p.m. Thursdays. The shop also is open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Customers can shop online
anytime, with shipping available throughout the U.S.