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Quilters March Madness Stops In Riverbank
Riverbank Quilt Company owner Leanne Jones Cruz, left, along with friend and volunteer Ginny were all smiles greeting all the participants that stopped by for the 2018 Quilters March Madness four day event. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Basketball is not the only place for a little March Madness. Riverbank Quilt Company participated for the first time this year in the Quilter’s March Madness with a shop hop challenge from Thursday, March 8 through Sunday, March 11. The event is somewhat similar to a pub crawl, without alcohol, but with lots of fun. There were 11 shops in Northern California that networked together this year that gave quilters an opportunity for a road trip, prizes, raffles, sharing of techniques, project ideas and making new friends.

Riverbank shop owner Leanne Jones Cruz opened in 2016 downtown in the building that was once a bank. The old bank building has some unique characteristics, including some of the original equipment including an old safe behind bars, which was a real hit with some of the hoppers. The shop will mark its second anniversary in June and has tripled its inventory of bolts of fabric. Joan Witt, the mother of Jones Cruz, serves as the manager and has been a part of the shop since it opened.

“It has been really fun seeing new faces,” said Jones Cruz. “We have had a steady stream of people including our loyal customers and friends that volunteered.”

The 12th annual shop hop challenge included the following locations: A Quilter’s Place in Oakdale, In Between Stitches in Livermore, Ladybug’s Quilts in Manteca, Quilts and Things in Morgan Hill, Family Threads in San Juan Bautista, Always Quilting in San Mateo, JMG Fabric and Quilts in Los Banos, Quilters Cabin in Hilmar, Cloth and Quilts in Turlock, Golden State Quilting in Campbell and, invited this year to join the shop hop, Riverbank Quilt Company in downtown Riverbank.

There were approximately 200 people from all over that stopped by the Riverbank Quilt Company throughout the four days that had never been there before. The shop hoppers were given a passport that they took to each shop where they received a stamp. Once the passport had stamps from all 11 stores the hoppers were eligible to participate in the drawing for cash prizes.

“It was a very successful weekend, about 200 people visited my shop during the event,” stated Jones Cruz. “They came from all over, but a few places I remember were Fresno, Chowchilla, San Jose, Livermore, San Mateo, Sonora, Ceres, and that is just to name a few. I had one customer comment that she drove 200 miles round trip to finish the hop.”

Each day at the shops there was a daily raffle and an element challenge. With their participation this year the Quilt Company has brought some action to the City of Action. Witt would also teach new techniques to guests.

“We met a lot of new people, several said they didn’t know about us, and now they do,” expressed Jones Cruz. “We will definitely participate again, and have even been invited to do the Jingle Bell Shop Hop in November.”

There were two ladies that called themselves Thelma and Louise as they traveled around shop hopping. Annette Cardenas and Debbie Durbin are both RN’s in Merced and Los Banos and made their trip during the quilters March Madness event around Northern California an adventure. They were thrilled when they saw that there were bars in front of the safe in the old bank building and just had to take a picture behind bars, fitting their characters of Thelma and Louise as they laughed and told stories about their shop hop trip. Other shoppers, Jones Cruz added, also made comments about how cool the building was.

The Riverbank Quilt Company is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and they make and sell fabrics as well as offer a variety of classes.

“It was super fun, and I had several loyal customers who volunteered during the event to lend a helping hand with the large numbers of folks visiting the store,” said Jones Cruz. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”