A Cozy Corner on the Square in Metamora
METAMORA – Dating back to the pre-Civil War days, this structure was Isch’s Grocery and Variety Store on the corner of Menard and Partridge for many years. Now the home of several quilting and sewing stores, it is still a favorite destination for shoppers from Central Illinois.
Cozy Corner Building Today
-- Photo by Karen Fyke
By Karen D. Fyke
for the News Bulletin
METAMORA - In March of 1997 Juanita Penman decided to open her own quilt shop. After some searching, she found the perfect location, the corner of Menard and Partridge, on the Square in Metamora. At first her shop was just half of the double building, the other half being divided into booths and rented to crafters. In
August of 1997 she was joined in the business by her daughter, Debi Henninger.
The oldest half of the building was constructed sometime between 1840 and 1860. Several years later the west half was built as a mirror image of the east part. J. P. Isch had a general merchandise business in the building in 1904. Half was devoted to groceries and the other half housed dry goods. The Isch sisters operated the store until the 1980s. Customers have related that when they were children they used to stop in to the store to buy (or snitch) candy on their way home from St. Mary’s school. Just before Juanita became the owner in 1999, the building housed a furniture store.
Entering the front door is like stepping back in time. The front steps have a boot scraper embedded in the cement, and the door appears to be the original one. The floors inside are wide, pine boards, uneven from over 100 years of customers’ footsteps. They’re rough in places, but how they evoke the ambiance of the good old days!
On every wall and surface there’s fabric-up to 3,000 bolts of it. Quilts of every kind and description are made up and on display. Everything a quilter could want is available. Need a sewing machine or a serger? There’s a complete line of Viking Husqvarna equipment. Need needles, machine feet, gadgets? There’s a bewildering array of them. Need quilting books for ideas or how-to’s? There’s hundreds of them. And to help you find what you need is Bylle, Arvella, Carole and Claudette.
Any sewer knows that fabric breeds fabric, and stashes only grow and grow. As Juanita’s quilt shop progressed, it soon took over the whole building. Juanita’s daughter, Debi Henninger, operates the business now and makes sure there are classes for every conceivable quilting desire. The space for the classes is small, but the learning is intense and the satisfaction of creating something lasting and beautiful is sublime.
Juanita retired in 2002 and Debi assumed the business. Six years ago an offshoot, Cotton Stitches, was opened in Pekin. Three years ago Prairie Points was opened in Northpoint Shopping Center in Peoria. All three shops are serving the sewing public well.
It’s fun to piece a quilt top, but getting it sandwiched with backing and stuffing and then putting in all those little, bitty stitches to make it a real quilt is a skill that not every sewer has. So Debi’s shops offer machine quilting using a long-arm quilter and the artistic skills of Jeri Rennie. The machine quilting used to be done at Metamora, but was moved to the Pekin store, where there’s more room. Quilters can drop off and pick up their quilts at the Metamora location, too.
To the west of the Cozy Corner is a house that Juanita lived in until recently. The main part of the structure was, at one time, a 2-story building that housed a gun shop. But it wasn’t located where it stands today. It was on the northeast corner of the intersection of Partridge and Menard. Way back when, some enterprising soul rolled the building a half block west by means of big logs. Those big logs are still visible in the basement of the house. Additions were made to the original building from time to time. An attempt to get the building on to the Historic Register failed because so many alterations had been made to the original structure. The house was sold to Leigh Hunter who turned it into The Pear Tree Retreat Center which is managed by Kathi Lehman.
Kathi is also the manager of Cozy Corner. The managers of Cotton Stitches are Robyn Welch and Thelma Morris. Georjean Lipovsky manages Prairie Points.
There’s no one quite as creative as a dedicated quilter. They can make quilt patterns from just about anything you can imagine. Some time ago Ms Henninger was inspired by hobo designs that she had learned about. Hobos had a series of markings they could inscribe on gates and gate posts to let future hobos know how they could expect to be treated should they ask for a handout. Debi did some research to learn what the signs were, and has turned them into quilt block patterns. Her new book, Hobo Quilts, will be released later this month. Published by Krause Publications, it contains 60 blocks and 20 projects. Debi visited the American Heritage Museum outside Boston to view some of the 3,000 letters written by hobos, and she has anecdotes and quotations from many of those letters throughout the book. A book-signing will be held May 7th from 6-8 p.m. at Cozy Corner.
To learn more about the Cozy Corner and The Pear Tree, you may go to www.mybeststitch.com . Kathi also has a Face Book page which you can access by going to www.facebook.com and entering “cozy corner” in the searchbox. The business email address is
Kathi and Bylle discuss the presentation of an upcoming quilting class.
METAMORA - Kathi and Bylle discuss the presentation of an upcoming quilting class at the Cozy Corner showroom.
--Photo by Karen Fyke