Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chicago, Chicago

My husband, our son and I arrived home late last night after six full days in Chicago. Cary and Brandon were in training to become certified Bernina Sewing Machine Technicians. As a new Bernina dealer we want to provide top notch service. Even though it is a well known fact around here that my husband is capable of doing anything I ask of him, certified training is the only way to go.

A great tec person is worth their weight in gold and the only way "good" becomes "great" is through experience and training. After all, nobody wants to trust their sewing machine "baby" to unqualified hands. I am happy to report that I feel very confident that once my customers meet Brandon, they will be willing to trust their "baby" to MY baby.

Little did I know that years ago when Brandon was using my scrap basket to make ponytail scrunchies as a way to meet girls, I actually had a Tec in training! I should have seen the clues, especially because he developed an interested in exactly what my machines could do much earlier than his sisters.

To prep Brandon for his repair class, I insisted that he actually sew several things starting with Christmas gifts for his sisters. He learn to embroider and experienced several successes as well as a few failures before attending training. I think it is important that he understand YOUR level of frustration when something is wrong with your machine.

His experience certainly helped him understand what to look for in training. It also helped build his confidence along with the fact that he has unlimited access to this amazing Chicago Tec department that is staffed by Swiss Technician if he ever feels he is in over his head.
While my Tecs spent long days ripping apart and reassembling thousand dollar sewing machines I spent the week in new dealer training classes.

Six days is a long time to spend on a business trip. It means 5 nights of sleeping in a Holiday Inn while the work at home keeps piling up. In my case it also meant spending from 8am until 6pm each and every day in a hotel conference room with the same people. That could have been a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, it was a very enjoyable group! I think that we would all agree that our tour of the home office was the highlight of the week.

You can see us in their spotless warehouse ohhhing and awhing over carton after carton of sewing machine accessories. LOOK AT THAT STACK OF MACHINES! They would fill several tractor trailer trucks. With the top of the line selling for around $12,000, can you imagine what that pile of goodies is worth? The Bernina warehouse also houses Brewer, a book pattern and notions distributor. I would have gladly skipped lunch if they would have allowed me to roam these aisles and peek inside all of those bins of goodies! - maybe next time.

Now I have to get back to work and catch up on my quilt shop responsibilities.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I have a suggestion for those of you that plan to travel by air in these uncertain times. If you have a desire to get to your destination in a timely fashion I suggest that you follow the TSA rules (although they don't seem to follow their own rules) and I have one extra special tip for you. Check to make sure that there are no Montgomerys on your flight. I am referring specifically to any Montgomery that would be directly related to me.

The airlines can be a tad cranky about showing you the passenger list, so I suggest that you proceed directly to your gate, take a look around and see if you can see me or any members of my immediate family. For those of you that aren't familiar with my immediate family and still have a desire to arrive at your destination on time, it would be well worth your while to just stand up and announce "Is anyone here related to Karen Montgomery"? Members of my family will then fess up and you can immediately rebook yourself on a different flight.

It won't matter if your flight was direct from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and re booking means that you now have a layover in Bangladesh, you are going to get there faster if you don't travel with us.

My travel woes are legendary. I have missed 3 days of a Scandinavian cruise because of a truck accident in Philadelphia. It makes for a great story, but I missed the white cliffs of Dover. I have spent 5 days touring the Mediterranean without my luggage courtesy of USAirways. We even left an entire day early for that trip, just to make sure that everything would go well. I have spent countless nights in odd cities because my connecting flight was late or the last flight out was canceled. I avoid Philadelphia like it has a plague and I would rather travel to Atlanta to get home from New York than be the last flight out of Washington/Dulles. For years I thought that it was only I that traveled under a black cloud, but as it turns out, it is genetic.

Our daughter Lindsay flew back to college in Jacksonville Florida on the same day that some nut in Newark decided to walk the wrong way through security. You might think that a jerk in Newark wouldn't have any effect on travel from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville, but you would be wrong. Nothing flys direct to Jacksonville. Lindsay had a layover in Charlotte. Her connecting flight originated in ... you guessed it, Newark.

To make a long story short (and traveling with us is always a long story) our attempt to get Lindsay back on campus, in to her new room, and ready for class the next day failed miserably. She was rerouted to Gainesville where a friend agreed to make the 70 mile drive to pick her up and help her get back to school. Meanwhile, USAirways managed to loose her bag. The very same bag that they charged us $25 to put on the plane. After a ridiculous runaround, they found her bag - in Jacksonville. They delivered the kid to the wrong city and the bag to the right one! Oh, that TSA "rule" that says they won't put a bag on a plane unless you are traveling with it.... they lie.

I've been busy putting my calendar back together after the upgrade to Windows 7, confirming hotel reservations and flight info for speaking engagements and training classes. I may be the only person that makes travel arrangements based on where I would like to be stranded. Next week three of us are traveling to Chicago. Three Montgomerys on the same plane? .... we decided to drive!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back In The Swing

Inventory is finally over, the new POS system is running pretty smoothly, the shop is put back together and I finally feel like things are getting back to normal around here.
I snapped a few shots of the store because it is always fun to look back and see where we have been and how things have changed. This year the big difference is the new opening in the far wall that leads to our new batik room. The Bernina sewing machines live in our old batik space in front of the big arched window. Those photos didn't turn out - too much glare from the snow outside!
The second reason that I was busy snapping photos is that we have been selected to be featured in a special issue of McCalls Quilting. As a "Hometown Favorite" quilt shop, I had to design a quilt exclusively for them and provide photos of the shop and myself. The issue is set to hit the newsstands this spring, so I am going to have to figure out how to take more photos that don't show the snow outside. Not showing the snow in the shop photos will be easier than not showing the wrinkles in the photo of myself. Is it just me or is the image you have of yourself a lot younger than the image you see in the mirror?
One thing I know for sure, the older you get the better friends you have. In addition to my BFF Bernie, I "hang" with a wonderful group of shop owners. We trade ideas, work together on special events, support each other through thick and thin and laugh a lot. Most of us have blogs and I think that when you are finished here, you should click on over to read what Debbie has to say about what you are worth. Scroll down to her December 31st entry. While my favorites differ from Debs, the idea is the same, check it out.

Just because things were running so smoothly, I upgraded from Vista to Windows 7 this week. Technology and I don't get along too well on a normal basis, making changes always tosses me a curve. The upgrade erased my contact list and calendar, that means I have lost the dates for the speaking engagements I have scheduled this year. That's going to make my life interesting.......