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Downtown Rochester Featured Stakeholder: Virginia A. Smith of Ginny’s Fine Fabrics

Downtown Stakeholders are the personality of Downtown Rochester, and that got us thinking, “We bet there are some interesting stories out there.” So the RDA sat down with downtown Rochester stakeholder Virginia A. Smith of Ginny’s Fine Fabrics with one objective: “Tell us about yourself.” 

Why did you start Ginny’s Fine Fabrics? 

Virginia Smith: I started Ginny’s Fine Fabrics when I was just 26 years old and had worked for a fine women’s clothing store for many years.  My employer had taught me all aspects of running a business and my passion had always been creating unique garments by sewing them, so when an opportunity to start a branch of Amluxen’s, a fine fabric store in Minneapolis, was offered to me, I jumped at the chance.

Why is it important to you to be operating from downtown Rochester?

VS: I truly believe that my business would not have survived elsewhere in Rochester, as proximity to Mayo has brought me customers from all over the world, especially people who appreciate the value of quality.  

Is your main customer base local residents, visitors, or a mix?

VS: My main customers come from everywhere.  Many are local - happy to have a local source for their sewing needs, whatever they are.  However, I do have regular customers from all over the world.  I carry the unique silks and cottons desired by the ladies from the Middle East, whose desert sun fades fabric of lesser quality in no time at all.  Men from the same countries choose my fine “tropical” woolens for their full-length caftans.  I have mail order customers who have found a cloth they enjoy working with and cannot find elsewhere, who order over and over.  I also have designers who just love working with elegant fabric when creating their original designs.  All are welcome!

What is your favorite thing about Rochester?

VS: I was born here, so it is ‘home.’  Most of my family is within a few hours of Rochester.  Although I went away to college, I never felt safe until I returned to live in the shadow of the Mayo Clinic.

What do you think is the best kept secret about downtown?

VS: [It’s] the incredible variety of quality choices in merchandise  and cuisine.  Unlike the “big box” retailers, quality is job #1!

What do you think the biggest change will be to downtown in the next 20 years?

VS: ...seems to be the impact of the implementation of the DMC.  That change will have an unknown effect on the community I have known all my life, but change is the one constant of life, so let’s have it.

What unique perspective do you have being a fabric store in downtown Rochester?

VS: My customers are so varied, from so many different cultures, that they have given me a unique, appreciative view of the entire world.

What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

VS: The most exciting project I ever participated in was making a suit for a local young man who was 7’8” tall and had been invited to go on a cruise where a suit jacket was required to enter the dining rooms.  With the financial and stitching help of a few loyal customers, we were able to “dress” him properly for the cruise in less than a week’s time!  It was very rewarding in many ways!

And lastly, is it Virginia or Ginny?

VS: Everyone - but my banker - calls me Ginny.