WATERLOO — For Tim and Rachel Hoover, the key to more customers has been a bigger store.
The Waterloo husband-and-wife team own and operate Stoney Ridge Country Store on Route 96. That 8,900-square-foot location was constructed in 2017 and opened that August; it is almost three times the size of the former store housed in Rachel Hoover’s childhood home.
Hoover’s mother, Anna Mae Martin, started Stoney Ridge in 2002 in Seneca Falls, primarily as a fabric and sewing supplies outlet in her 3,000-square-foot basement on Hoster Road, behind Peterman Lumber. Martin still helps out occasionally — she mans the cutting table or filling in when employees need time off — but the business is now run by the Hoovers. They share an office off the front of the store, and each was behind their desks earlier this week while their 3-month-old daughter slept nearby.
The store has plenty of merchandise that harkens to its roots — there are bolts of colorful fabric, ribbon, trim and quilt batting taking up the center portion of the building. Sewing accessories such as thread, zippers and buttons are stocked, as are more unusual items like suspender clips that cater to the Mennonite and Amish customers.
Rachel Hoover does the fabric ordering and will accept special orders. In fact, on Tuesday an employee came into the office and said a customer was in search of silver beads to use in wedding attire.
Tim Hoover, a Clyde native, said the larger space, which features 12-foot-high ceilings vs. the previous 7-foot-high ones, has allowed them to expand an inventory that has grown by 30 percent; the couple bought a fair amount of shelving when JoAnn’s Fabrics in Auburn went out of business. And, being on a major thoroughfare between Geneva and Seneca Falls has increased the store’s customer count 50-75 percent, Rachel Hoover said.
Among the expanded offerings are clothing — boots, shoes and lots of work gloves top that list — snacks and candy; a crafts area with scrapbooking supplies; a puzzle and farm toy area; canning supplies and kitchenware; cards and gift bags; and a few tools and flashlights.
While most customers hail from Seneca and Ontario counties, Tim Hoover said a recent mailer campaign resulted in quite a few visitors from Newark and Palmyra in Wayne County.
“Word of mouth is still the best advertising,” he said.
As is drive-by visibility.
Outside, a long line of storage sheds is for sale. Tim Hoover said a friend approached him about selling the sheds shortly after they opened in the new location.
“I said, ‘We can try.’ It’s been way better than I thought it would be,” he said, noting the Route 96 location “has 20 times as much traffic as Hoster Road.”
The extensive selection of sheds and storage buildings/barns include Amish-built sheds, pre-fab storage sheds, mini-barns and countryside barns, used sheds, greenhouses, playhouses and more. They can be delivered anywhere in New York state.
Soon joining the sheds outside the store will be a large wooden shoe playhouse … not for Mother Hubbard, but as an advertising tool. Tim Hoover said when it’s done it will measure about 8 feet by 12 feet, be painted purple, and include shoelaces.
“I figure there’s a lot of people who drive by here and don’t even know we sell shoes!,” he exclaimed.