Hometown Hero: Quilters, sewers grateful for couple continuing ‘treasured’ business

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business.

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business.

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business.

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business.

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business. GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business.

Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. They work together side by side and even have their two grown children help with the business. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 04-14-2024 11:59 AM

Modified: 04-15-2024 3:05 PM


When Randy and Holly Silver saw their chance two years ago to open a business they’ve always wanted, they wasted no time moving forward.

They went to the bank almost immediately after an offer was made to buy the Bittersweet Fabric Shop, a staple in Boscawen for more than 50 years. It features sewing machines and fabrics for sale and hands-on instruction by a couple whose pragmatic approach to a great American institution has shown that quilting and sewing remain more popular than you might think.

They opened two years ago as a business that was built from the ground up by the Lavalley family, who opened Bittersweet in 1968 at the family home before moving to its present location on Cottage Street two years later.

Business was great then and remains that way for the Silvers. Holly has no time to work the craft business she opened in her house, two miles from Bittersweet’s location on Cottage Road, so her son runs that while she and Randy focus on their main source of income.

“I was dabbling in 2013 with crafts, and it just kept growing,” Holly said. “But once we bought this, that home business took a back seat, so I can’t really craft anymore. We work with just interior decorating and traders. There are no customers because we just don’t have the time. We are slammed there, and we are slammed here.”

Joyce Butterworth, a loyal customer at the Bittersweet, noticed the intimate manner in which the couples’ knowledge and passion, combined with their decision to keep the shop open, translated into a community contribution worthy of Hometown Hero status.

She said quilters and sewers were saddened and worried once the Lavalley family sold their business two years ago and are grateful the Silvers are continuing this community asset.

Audrey Lavalley opened the shop more than 50 years ago, but more recently the family business was run by Dave Lavalley, who took over the operation about 25 years ago after he retired from the military.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Concord School District leaders stand by principal hiring despite past lawsuit
Memorial Day 2024 parades and events in Concord and surrounding towns
Internal emails reveal UNH administrators’ desire to quell pro-Palestine ‘encampment’ ahead of graduation
“It’s a miracle” – Family to attend funeral of missing World War II soldier from Northwood
The largest arcade in the world marches on
‘Book banning’ continues to leave parents, lawmakers divided

Lavalley wanted to retire and asked Randy Silver if he was interested in buying the shop.

Randy liked the idea immediately. So did Holly, whose home business had whet her appetite for another venture that was related to crafts but took the skills a bit further.

After securing a loan, Holly knew that a key role in their new operation had to be filled to move forward. When you sell sewing machines – complete with computer screens and push-button procedures these days – you’ll need someone to fix them. Someone with extensive training.

When Holly told her husband she’d need a specialist to fix these ever-changing complexities of the sewing machine, he had an easy response: He’d do it once he learned how. He now says he can fix almost any problem connected to a broken machine.

“I took a correspondence course in sewing machine repair,” Randy said. “It was that simple.”

Thus far, customers like Butterworth, worried initially about customer service and fair prices, said the change was seamless.

“We thought, ‘there won’t be anyone who can run the place like Dave (Lavalley),’ ” Butterworth said. “But they’re running it just like Dave did and it is a wonderful thing.”

The Silvers’ said their workload is relentless. The couple returned from a vacation in Florida recently and they brought their work with them.

“I was on the phone every day helping, answering questions, answering emails,” Holly said. “Last night I was up until 10 paying bills.”

Armed with an education on how to fix sewing machines, Randy now knows, among so many other aspects of the business, how to button tuft. That’s what you see on leather chairs and couches, the buttons that are sunken into the plushness, where the fabric indents.

He also said he and his wife are bombarded with phone calls from customers who need assistance to fix their machines. He says he solves the problems a great majority of the time.

He’s thankful that Dave Lavalley stayed a few months after retiring to train Randy, and Lavalley family customers like Butterworth are relieved the couple kept their “most treasured quilt shop” alive.

“You’re busy every day of the week,” Randy said. “There’s always something to do every single day. Emails come in all the time. With quilting and sewing, this is their passion.”