Former Sew Dayton owner enjoys giving back to the community she loves, one stitch at a time

Jesy Anderson, owner of Needle, Ink and Thread, is our Daytonian of the Week.

Even if you haven’t met Jesy Anderson, it’s entirely likely that you’ve at least seen her out and about. As the former co-owner of Sew Dayton, the current owner of Needle, Ink and Thread and organizer of ArtFest, Anderson is always utilizing her talents for good in the city of Dayton.

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Before opening Needle, Ink and Thread nearly four years ago, Anderson was one half of the Sew Dayton team. Along with fellow sewing enthusiast Tracy McElfresh, Anderson curated a unique experience in Dayton with the belief that, through learning basic sewing skills, any creative project could then be possible.

Anderson has carried this same sentiment with her into her latest project, Needle, Ink and Thread, in Beavercreek. More than just showing the community how fun sewing can be, Anderson has worked hard to create a safe space in her shop -- and I am familiar with this first-hand.

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For the past five years or so, my little sister has been going to Anderson for sewing lessons. For as long as I can remember, my sister has idolized the world of fashion and the creativity that comes along with it. Despite this adoration for fashion, my sister’s special needs have made it hard at times to pick up the more advanced skills needed to make it in this world. Thankfully, she found Anderson, who now doubles as her sewing guide and overall life guru, helping her navigate a world that can sometimes be a bit intimidating to people with special needs.

And this, my friends, is what truly shows the depth of Anderson’s character. Her kindness extends well beyond the confines of her business. For Anderson, the well-being of Dayton and its citizens is of the utmost importance, and she is doing her part to enrich the community, one stitch at a time.

This is what Anderson has been up to since the last time we spoke with her in 2015.

What business do you own and what do you specialize in?

I own Needle, Ink and Thread. It’s a sewing studio, which specializes in sewing classes from quilting to garment sewing (and everything in between) for ages and all skill levels. I was previously a co-owner of Sew Dayton in the Oregon District for almost 4 years before opening up my own space. I love teaching the community a skill that has been dying off for decades. It has been so much fun teaching the younger and older generations this fun skill.

Before you owned two successful businesses, did your life revolve around sewing? What were you up to before opening Sew Dayton? 

Before Sew Dayton, I worked in the corporate world of paper manufacturing. I was an employee of the Dayton-based Mead Paper Co., which became MeadWestvaco, then NewPage (which is now Verso/Catalyst). I worked there for over 11 years.

I was let go in 2011 due to downsizing and restructuring of the company. I started JKessel Design, which was focused on my sewing and art. I was only sewing one year prior to that.

What is it like working for yourself and pursuing your true passion project every day? What are the rewards that make it all worth it? 

Working for myself is the most rewarding experience I have ever had. It’s a bigger job than I think most people realize. But seeing the happy faces of my students, customers and friends after they take a class or pick up an alteration melts my heart and makes me so happy.

Knowing that I am teaching the new generation and even helping the older generations enjoy sewing makes me the happiest. I hear all the time how the generations that HAD to sew didn’t have fun because of the standards of perfection at the time. Knowing that I am helping them smile and enjoy something they could have been enjoying for decades is priceless.

What made you decide to part ways with Tracy McElfresh and open your own studio? In what ways did you feel supported by the Dayton community throughout this transition? 

When the decision to close Sew Dayton was made, it was a very, very sad day. Owning a business is a lot of work, a lot of time away from family and working at home all hours and such. I had a feeling we were coming to our end as a business partnership, but I always tried to stay positive and understanding as to why we closed.

Tracy enjoyed the alterations and custom sewing projects and I loved teaching and alterations as well. We both didn’t enjoy the endless cycle of retail and trying to sell products to people. By closing the studio we were able to pursue our love with the knowledge and history of running a successful business.

I was able to rent my first studio space fast, thanks to a friend who was expanding and had extra space in her art center for me to set up my studio. It helped me afford to open and do so as a single owner. It grew and gained so much momentum that we both ended up relocating to a bigger building in 2018!

I did feel supported by the Dayton community. I still have students I taught at Sew Dayton and do alterations for former customers. Dayton was a great way for us to open through Activated Spaces and do some really cool things for the community, like make new candy machine covers for Esther Price Candies, the curtains that hang at Dewey's Pizza on Jasper and countless other fun projects over the almost 4 years we were there.

What does a typical day at the shop have in store for you? 

A typical day for me at the studio is classes, either a private lesson, group workshops or birthday party! Since opening the studio, my priority has been the sewing classes and balancing them in order to have time with my family, too, which has worked out so beautifully!

I take alterations on Tuesdays by appointment (booked through my website) so you can normally catch me there staying busy with the alterations during the breaks between appointments.

The shop is open to the public on that day as well for Open Sew/Studio, where you can come in and work on a project and use the space. I recently overhauled the studio to have less retail and more classroom space!

I love hosting home-schooled groups, Girl Scouts, private parties, team building, birthday parties and more! So, as you can see, it’s ever-changing on a daily basis, which is so nice because I never get bored!

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What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through that challenge? 

My most recent professional challenge involved ArtFest and making sure I was still managing all that has to be done at the studio. ArtFest is a yearly art festival that I have been a part of since being on the board for Infusion Art, which is a nonprofit started by Decoy Art Center owner, Tabitha Guidone. Trying to juggle the social media for the event while in the midst of prom, summer camps, back to school and vacation was exhausting this year (we also had the tornadoes and mass shooting). It was stressful.

Putting on events like ArtFest is a year-long planning cycle and involves a lot of meetings. It’s all volunteer work and it’s hard to make sure to juggle that with your job, which ultimately pays the bills, and ensure that the volunteer work still gets done.

I love ArtFest and what it stands for, but this past year I decided to step down from the planning committee and help when I was needed and able. It allowed me to breathe a little more for 2020, which will be my fourth year open!

Credit: Sarah Babcock

Credit: Sarah Babcock

What are your favorite places to eat and drink in Dayton? 

Dayton is full of so many amazing places to eat! I don’t drink beer or liquor, so I really can’t comment on my favorite places for drinking, but I love food! Spice Paradise is amazing for spices. Their handmade locally baked goodies on top of premade soup mixes, dips and more are out of this world! Dublin Pub, Roost, 416 Diner, Lily’s Bistro, Deweys, Zombie Dogz, Bibibop, Old Scratch Pizza ... I seriously could just keep going on.

Beyond your business, what are some other ways that you remain involved in the Dayton community? 

I try to stay connected to the community, since it’s where I live. I helped the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company when they needed some last-minute sewing when I first opened and it was such a blast! I also teach at some of the local libraries and community centers, and am always up to collaborate with classes or events.

I don’t make it downtown as much as I would like to, but I still love to support local businesses when I am able, whether that means sharing an event on Facebook or ordering something from them online.

I love Dayton and all it stands for. I am a born and raised Daytonian and there is just no other place like our city.

What is your favorite hidden gem in Dayton? 

My favorite hidden gem in Dayton is a new one -- the New Challenger Arcade at Mike’s Bike Park! It’s so cool with old school arcade machines and it makes me feel like I am back in my childhood. It’s family-friendly and the owner is a middle school teacher who wanted to try something cool and fun to help keep kids in a safe and fun environment. If you haven’t gone, I highly recommend you go!

What inspires you about Dayton?

Dayton is full of inspiration, innovation, change and determination. Dayton inspires me daily by the tenacity of people and what we have endured over the years. I love that we are passionate about our little city even amidst the crazy summer of 2019. I love that we rally together and cheer each other on. We don't quit what we start.

What do you see in Dayton's future and the future of your business? 

I hope the future of Dayton involves more small and locally-owned businesses and less tax credits to big corporations. For Dayton to succeed, we need our big companies to pay their fair share of taxes to better the economy and communities they are a part of.

As for the future of my business, it’s going great! (Knock on wood)! I have grown and moved locations once already (in 2018). Classes have not slowed down and there are so many more people sewing now. Last year, I had over 140 new students take classes and that’s incredible! I am forever grateful to Dayton for giving Sew Dayton a chance to open in 2012, because I know I would not be where I am today without it.

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