A&A Sewing Center is a wonderful local sewing supply shop and sewing machine repair service. For more than 30 years, this family-owned spot has welcomed Acadiana residents looking for sewing supplies for costuming, Mardi Gras, quilting, and so much more. Whether you are a sewing expert or new to the craft, you’ll want to give this local spot a visit!
Clair Champagne helps manage A&A Sewing Center along with her parents, who bought the shop from Clair’s grandfather, Paul St. Amand. “In 2012, my grandfather started having heart trouble and so my mom and dad bought the store from him. He was not a computer person, so we had to start from the beginning and get a computer point of sale and the technology needed to best run the store,” says Clair.
Before A&A Sewing Center, Paul ran several Singer sewing machine dealerships. Once Singer sold out, Paul sold off those dealerships and settled down to one store which quickly grew. “This business was always in our family,” says Clair. “We’d go visit Paw Paw’s store and it was just a location for us. When you’re young, you never think your grandparents are going to age. When may dad decided that he was going to purchase the store, it was a surprise to my mom. She was a retired teacher who had never worked in retail. It never crossed our minds that running this shop is something we would do, but I’m glad we do it. It’s really fun and we have a ball.”
The people who frequent A&A Sewing Center definitely add to the fun environment. There is a warm sense of camaraderie that you won’t find at the big box craft stores. “This has become what we call a lady barbershop in a way. It’s a great hangout and a perky place to be. A lot of our clientele are ladies 50-years-old or older,” says Clair.
“Several of them have lost a spouse, are battling cancer, or are dealing with something difficult from having arthritis to breaking their leg and being bed-bound for two years. Several of these women start with hand-piecing projects and make friends here at our sew days. We have classes and club meetings where people become friends in their 60s with other ladies they’ve never met before, and it’s really refreshing. It’s a very female-dominated customer base and it’s also very motherly. Any day you come in everyone is cutting up and talking about each other and our husbands…it’s very much lady bonding for sure,” laughs Clair.
The connection A&A Sewing Center has to the community goes deeper than their relationship with customers. There is a rich history of crafting in Acadiana and A&A helps keep that legacy alive. “My grandfather sold machines and did repairs, but more importantly, it was formal Mardi Gras costumes. You’ve got to have custom-made pieces because with Mardi Gras, it’s got to be different and loud,” says Clair. “We have deep roots with some of these crews who have been shopping at the store for 25 years now because we were one of the only places that had blingy, sequined fabric. Obviously New Orleans has a ton, but outside of us, I think Houston is where people shop. We’re kind of a hub for Mardi Gras stuff. The day after Mardi Gras, people are already shopping for costuming for next year.”
“With quilting, that’s a craft that started its revival a little more than ten years ago. Quilting used to be a means to an end: we need a blanket, let’s make a quilt. But now, it has started becoming a bigger deal where people want to get creative. We’re trying to reach the younger generation and say look, don’t let this die. We don’t want it to go away, and we’re excited to get some fresh eyes on quilting again. Now our store is about 50/50 quilting and costuming,” says Clair.
A&A Sewing Center definitely has its roots in the community with regulars who have frequented the shop for many years. But, at the same time, there are always new customers coming by. “We get a lot of people walking in the door that say, ‘hey can you fix my pants?’ We’re not a tailor shop. I think people think that we do tailoring here, but we barely have time to sew for ourselves. However, we do quilting, and we teach classes. We even have an extra class room down the sidewalk from our store where we do a lot of teaching,” says Clair. Another phrase they often hear from new customers is, “oh, I didn’t know you had fabric!” A&A Sewing Center has a TON of fabric for sale and they welcome customers to look through their wide selection.
While A&A has been around for many years, they are always looking for ways to grow and best meet the needs of their customers. “One thing we’d like to do in the future is create a retreat center,” says Clair. “I know some people travel to Texas to go to these crafting retreat centers. Basically, it’s a place with no wi-fi or cable. There will be a kitchen and a big gym with electricity where people just go for a few days and then go home. It sounds like torture, but people always tell me they have the best time and say, ‘y’all need a retreat center!’ And I think we do! I think that would further all of these relationships we’re developing.”
With exciting plans for the future and a warm reflection on the past, Clair is most thankful for the present moments. “I always think it’s amazing the way I wake up and think, oh I get to go to work today. I have a super fun job. Personally, I’ve reached my goal because I feel like I have the best job in the world.”