I was invited this year to join in the annual open house at Checker Distributors which was held last weekend in Maumee, Ohio. Checker is a distributor that works with independent fabric and quilt shops around the world. Their primary focus is gathering together fabric, notions, patterns — anything that a local quilt or fabric shop might want to stock in their store — to create a sort of one-stop shop for the local store owner. This makes it faster and easier for independent shops to do their wholesale shopping, and it helps get patterns and notions from independent designers, like me, into stores that otherwise might not even know about our products. Checker doesn’t sell to individuals, but they have a really cool new feature on their website that will help you find your favorite designers’ patterns, notions and fabric in your local shop. I’m going to wait to share that until tomorrow, though, because I think it deserves a post of its own!Once a year, Checker clears out a portion of their warehouse and sets up booths for designers to come in and share their products with shop owners — some who live in the local area and some who travel from far away. (I even met two shop owners who live here in Florida!) Because they’ve been really popular with independent stores, I showcased my Go Fish Pattern Series! I also unveiled an area on my website that you’ll be able to access starting next week, where you will find free downloadable “extras” to add to your Go Fish Pattern projects. These extras are great for shops who want to offer them to their customers, include them in their classes or use them for store samples.I loved getting to talk with so many business owners and hear from them directly, but I also had a great time socializing after hours with the other designers and the Checker staff! Checker fed us so much yummy food. (I won’t share how many extra pounds I brought home!)Kay Whitt from Sew Serendipity was on one side of me, and Stephanie Prescott of A Quilter’s Dream was on my other side. The whole place was filled with incredibly talented and wonderful people!Attendees visited the vendor booths and shopped from Checker’s fabric warehouse, loading up carts with all sorts of goodies. Checker also offered short classes during the weekend, each one designed to help independent shops grow different areas of their businesses.I had a great time, and I definitely recommend attending if you have the opportunity! As a vendor, you’ll have the opportunity to promote your products directly to attendees who are ready and willing to share them with their customers, and as a store owner or buyer, you’ll enjoy the chance to meet designers and chat with them face-to-face about how their products can help build your business.