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The Pickett Fence: Celebrating 25 years of fabric, friendship, and fun

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Louanne Davis, owner of The Pickett Fence, poses among some of the 4000 bolts of fabric her store carries and in front of the samples of children’s quilts she and her staff created. (Melissa R. Collum/ Courier Press)

One the most awesome memories of the past 25 years Davis recalls is when the Pickett Fence was chosen to be in the 2019 Spring edition of the Quilt Sampler magazine as a Top Ten Shop. “It had been a dream that I had and it became a reality. I could not believe it when they called us,” reminisces Davis.

A portion of the Candy Shop!

By Melissa R. Collum

Louanne Davis and her sister Annette Johnson had thought about opening a fabric store someday and when the Prairie du Chien Ben Franklin Store closed down, the sisters saw their opportunity. The Pickett Fence started out in the Commerce Court Mall right next to the grocery store in 1998. This is how the venture of the Picket Fence began 25 years ago. The business was off the ground but the partnership lasted only a short 18 months, as Johnson’s family decided to move out of the area.
When the mall changed hands and Slumberland moved in, the store had to move over one spot. Eighteen months later the mall changed hands again and wanted the Picket Fence to move to around the corner. “To me that was retail suicide. So we got kicked out. We had a big sale and tried to assure everyone that we would be back,” states Davis. The contents of the store were put into storage, while Davis went on the hunt for a store front in the community.
The Rexall Drug store was bought out in 2006 and the space at 100 W. Blackhawk Ave. became available. It has been the home for the Pickett Fence ever since. “We took possession of the building on Sept. 30. Helped Rexall move everything out and opened on Oct. 10, 2006,” states Davis. “Without the help of my family and close friends, this never could have happened. Even the people of Prairie du Chien made it happen. People would come in off the street when we were moving in and ask, do you need help? There was no way we could have done it in eight days without the whole community.”
Over the years and with each move the Pickett Fence has modified to meet the needs of its customers. “We have transitioned being a full line craft store. We had hard and soft crafts, florals, gift ware, and flat fold fabric. So when we went from first store to second store we got rid of all the hard crafts,” notes Davis. “From the second store to here, we carried over floral and gifts, and kept them for three years. We got rid of that and brought in the sewing machines and have become a full-fledged quilt shop.”
When the Pickett Fence moved into its current location on Blackhawk Ave. it also opened the candy shop. “It started as just one case of candies. Now there is a whole corner. It is amazing how much candy we sell. We sell more candy than I ever thought we would. What more could you ask for? Fabric and chocolates in one spot. If you are quilter or a sewer you have the best of both worlds right here,” muses Davis. The candy came about because Hamann Variety Store was going out of business. “I grew up here and Hamann’s always had the candy,” commented Davis, “so that was a need.”
As a business owner, Davis embraces the need for change that comes with working in retail. “You have to keep reinventing and do new things or people are going to get bored,” states Davis. “There is always something going on here. You can’t say this is what we have always done, because it does not work. You have to pivot and change whenever things are thrown your way.”
Davis made shifts during COVID that not only helped her store survive COVID but increased business. “We had actually made 12 quilts to take to a show in the end of March 2020,” Davis reminisces. “We had these samples that we made up that we were going demo and all the kits made up. We decided that we would do a video preview, so we could stay in front of the customers. That is how it started.”
As bad as COVID was, Davis believes that it was best thing that could have happened to the business. “We have grown so much over the past three years. At times I felt guilty because so many were struggling and we were thriving,” observes Davis. “But that is this type of business. We are something that people can stay at home and do, and get pleasure from.”
When her employees were sent home due to COVID restrictions, is when Davis decided to create and post a short video every day to finish up the quit preview and other items around the shop. The Facebook live events began when two of the employees were able to come back to the store in person. To date the group has completed 141 live events and are still hosting ‘lives’ every Tuesday night, at 6 pm. “They have been huge,” comments Davis. “We ship all over the United States now, when we did very little shipping before. It is like adding an day of the week into our sales.”
On most live events there are around 100 viewers. Davis credits the ‘lives’ to keeping the Pickett Fence Family connected. Throughout this March a part of the lives will focus on telling the journey of the development of the store and its offerings. The boards that Davis creates for the lives will be on display for the ‘You are the key to our success’ event on March 25.
Davis is thankful for her loyal customers that have stuck with her through it all. “During COVID I would have people outside the window. I would bring fabric up and show it to them. They would point to which ones they wanted.” Many people may not be aware but the Pickett Fence donated thousands for yards of fabric for people to make masks for the community.
Biggest event of the year that the Pickett Fence hosts is ‘Peek over the fence.’ It is the last Sunday of August. Peek over the fence is a Project Runway type show where the Pickett Fence crew show the 60 plus quilt samples that they have created. On that day, people have to reserve your seat and here is limited space for the two shows. “We have been sold out a month in advance for the last three years,” states Davis. “We preview all the new samples. After the show they get to shop and there is homemade pie and ice cream.”
One the most awesome memories of the past 25 years Davis recalls is when the Pickett Fence was chosen to be in the 2019 Spring edition of the Quilt Sampler magazine as a Top Ten Shop. “It had been a dream that I had and it became a reality. I could not believe it when they called us,” reminisces Davis.
Starting March 6 the Picket Fence will be hosting the ‘You are the key to our success’ treasure chest promotion. With any in-store purchase of $25 or more March 6 through March 25 customers will receive a key to the treasure chest containing a prize worth $2500. Customers will need to bring their keys back on March 25th to try and open the treasure chest to see if they win.
If your key is not a winner, you still have a chance to win, by filling out a card for the drawing. “If the winning key does not show up, we will draw a name from those that stopped in with a key at 4 pm,” states Davis. “Our customers are really the key to our success and we want to thank them for that.”
During the March event the store will also be doing a fund raiser for Crossing Rivers Hospice. “With each purchase of $25 you will get a ticket. There will be ten prizes and the customer can then drop the ticket into bucket of the prize of their choice. The winners will also be drawn at 4 pm on March 25,” states Davis. “This is where the fundraising comes in you can purchase extra tickets will be available for a donation of $5. Then you will get six more tickets to drop into the prizes.”
Davis says her plans for the next 25 years of the Pickett Fence are continuing as is and adapting to the needs and wants of the customers. “For me personally, I would like to cut back on my hours. I have grand babies that are close to us now so we need to spend more time with them. I have fantastic staff and manager and they have taken a lot off my plate, which I thought would give me more time for other things, but I just keep planning more things.” Davis noted that a great deal of credit for the success of the business needs to go to her husband, Ken, for the support that he has given over the years. Additionally, Davis notes that her family has always been very helpful in all the activities with the store.
“We don’t think of our clientele as customers, they are family. It is a really close knit family group. I always refer to everyone as our ‘Pickett Fence Family’,” states Davis. “We are here for the community. We are not planning on going anywhere. As our logo says ‘Fabric, friendship and fun’ is the Pickett Fence mantra.”

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