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What a transformation!

By Staff | Jul 31, 2012

Anyone passing by the former Sons of Norway Lodge on Rugby’s Main Avenue might not notice the subtle changes that have been made to the outside of the building in the past few months. But one look inside will show the remarkable transformation it has undergone since it was bought by Theresa Kifer, her husband, Dr. Robert Kifer, and their daughter, Aleigha, in 2010.

The Kifers moved from California to Belcourt in 2008 when Robert became head of the Indian Health Services dental clinic there. A short time later they began looking for a building to house Theresa’s quilting business and discovered the large brick structure in Rugby. From the very first glance Theresa could visualize how the Rugby landmark could function as both a shop and a home for her family.

She had grown up around building construction in Warroad, Minnesota, and when her father agreed the building would be suitable, he and Theresa set to work.

“Dad has glaucoma,” Theresa said, “so he would tell me ‘I need a 45 degree cut on this board’, and I’d do it. I learned how to run every tool imaginable.”

For the first couple of months the family drove back and forth between Rugby and Belcourt, but as soon as they had a bathroom and laundry area in place, they moved in. Since then they’ve worked in spurts, making changes on both levels of the building.

“We didn’t do much remodeling,” Theresa said. The Kifers liked the Lodge atmosphere and tried to retain many of the original features of the building. They added insulation in the ceiling and walls, turned storerooms into bedrooms, put in a few new windows and updated the “Ole” and “Lena” bathrooms in the lower level. The stage upstairs remains, functioning as a display area, and the Lodge kitchen is intact save for the replacement of the center island. They plan to add new flooring in the future. The kitchen cupboards and the serving counter were so nice the Kifers saw no need to replace them. “We bought benches and tables from the Lodge,” Theresa said, “and they left me all their dishes and their coffee pots.”

Knotty pine paneling was added to the walls in some areas on both levels and in the entryway, and each level now features a large fireplace. But most of the changes have been in the decorating touches added by Theresa.

Quilts in a variety of sizes, patterns and colors adorn the walls. Sofas placed around the fireplaces form living areas for the family on both levels. Family photos, TVs, books and other personal items add a homey feel. The upper level features a display of Theresa’s antique sewing machines.

The upper floor contains the sales area, also, and Theresa’s 14-foot long-arm quilting machine sits ready for her next project. She has a large counter for laying out fabric and cutting blocks. Shelves along the walls and several tables hold quilt fabric for sale–flannels, wools, cottons and more. Theresa stocks almost every notion a quilter would need, or she can special order items not in stock.

The former Lodge basement is set up to allow quilting groups to come in and work on projects for a day or longer. “Members of the groups get inspiration from each other,” Theresa said.

Theresa also plans to host trunk shows in the lower level, such as the one she had on June 16 during the grand opening of the appropriately named Theresa’s Quilting Lodge. Nationally- and regionally-known quilters will display quilts they have designed and made so local quilters can get new ideas and learn new techniques. These experts also sell kits they have compiled complete with everything needed for a project. “Surprisingly, a lot of people will become overwhelmed with all the fabric and color choices available and it’s just easier for them to make a quilt from a kit,” Theresa said.

Business has been steady since the opening of the shop, and Theresa said her grand opening was a huge success. “A ton of people came,” she remarked, and they have continued to come. Last week she entertained the Red Hat Quilters from Willow City. And members of the Sons of Norway, former owners of the building, toured it recently and gave their approval.

Although improvements will continue to be made, the Kifers have settled into their new home and business. “The people here are so welcoming, and I have totally enjoyed meeting them,” Theresa said. “The building is a work in progress,” she adds. “We’ve been trying to keep things local. People are so nice and easy to work with.”

The family is also enjoying being closer to relatives in Minnesota. They go deer hunting near Lake of the Woods every fall with other members of Theresa’s large family. Robert is originally from California, where the couple met, but Theresa says he likes living up north and enjoys hunting as much as she does. “My city boy became a country boy,” she laughed.

In September quilting classes will begin starting with a Saturday wall hanging lesson. A block-of-the-month class will be given in October and at some point she plans a three-day class on larger quilts. Theresa, who has quilted for about 20 years, looks forward to meeting more people who share her passion. “It’s addictive once you get going,” she said.

Theresa’s Quilting Lodge is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Other hours may be arranged by calling 559-909-3791.

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