After 10 successful years in business, Quiltin’ Country in Killeen is closing its doors.

Owner Gayle Smith is retiring from the shop she began in 2003. She hasn’t yet announced the final day of business, but said it would be sometime before Christmas.

Gayle Smith, 68, and her husband and business partner, Billy Smith, said they are ready to move on.

“We are retiring, so we can do what we want to do for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Gayle Smith has always been “crafty.” She started sewing her own clothes as a teenager. By the mid-1970s, she had taught herself quilting.

A Bell County resident since 1962, she saw that Killeen needed a quilting shop. In 2003, while working as a U.S. Postal Service rural route carrier, she opened Quiltin’ Country on Stan Schlueter Loop.

“I started it from scratch without knowing anything about retail, but I knew good customer service,” she said.

Quilters quickly found her small shop, and business was good. Gayle Smith loved working with fabric but enjoyed interacting with customers more.

“I’ll miss my customers the most — so many friendships over the years, and the fun we’ve had,” she said.

Longtime customer Madonna Schroeter will miss the variety of fabric and support the shop offered, she said.

“Gayle always had a great assortment of colorful fabric, and the most informative classes,” Schroeter said.

“I’m going to cry for a long time when the shop closes. I would come here every week to see my friends and help with classes.”

Quilter Dolly Underwood loved the shop’s homey atmosphere.

“It took the wind out of my sails when I found out,” Underwood said. “It’s the end of an era in Killeen.”

Gayle Smith said quality merchandise and a knowledgeable staff gave her an advantage over chain retailers that carry fabric but don’t cater to quilters.

She also credits her husband with being a great mentor who taught her how to run a successful business.

“Unlike 70 percent of quilting shops that close after three years, Quiltin’ Country is going out on top,” Billy Smith said.

Without the daily burdens of operating a small business, the Smiths are looking forward to doing more traveling with possible trips to Alaska, Hawaii and train rides through Canada.

“It’s totally our time, but we’re leaving in good health and with great memories,” Gayle Smith said.

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