Joyce and Ray Wichelt have broadened their horizons through
the business they founded 30 years ago in their home, located
north of Stoddard, Wisconsin. That business was Wichelt Imports,
Inc. Today the company operates from a 7,200 sq. ft. office and
warehouse along Hwy. 35, seven miles north of Stoddard. The business,
which has 24 employees, is a wholesale distributor of mostly
imported needlecraft products which are sold to retail stores
around the world. Wichelt Imports carries premium-quality fabrics
for cross-stitching, needlepoint and embroidery.
Ray and Joyce Wichelt
Both owners grew up in Wisconsin; Joyce was raised on a dairy
farm near Cashton and Ray grew up in Beloit. Wichelt Imports
had its beginnings in 1970 in their home as an importer of German
gift items. Joyce was a registered nurse for 11 years until 1974,
when she left her job at Lutheran Hospital to spend all of her
time at the import business. Ray left The Trane Co. in 1984 after
24 years to devote all of his time to the company. According
to Joyce, "As we learned the insides of importing, we expanded
our horizons to Norway, searching for wool yarn." Wichelt
Imports added embroidery kits to their product line.
By 1977, the business had outgrown the Wichelts' home, so
Ray and Joyce built a 4,800 sq. ft warehouse, which has since
then been expanded twice. But in the fall of that same year,
the business had fallen on hard times because a major European
kit company dropped the Wichelts as a customer and established
its own U.S. business; the Wichelts' two main Norwegian suppliers
joined forces with a U.S. competitor to form an American wholesale
needlecraft company. Concurrently; the dollar dropped drastically,
and interest rates began to rise. However, the business managed
to survive, the Wichelts said, thanks to hard work and the support
and guidance of their banker and accountant. The late 1970s and
early 1980s were rebuilding years for the business. A critical
development came in 1977, when Permin of Copenhagen, one of the
largest embroidery manufacturers in Europe, asked the Wichelts
to be their U.S. distributor, as well as Zweigart of Germany.
Most of Wichelt Imports' products come from Denmark and Germany.
The company offers more than 700 colors and sizes of fabrics
to independent needlecraft shops in the United States and elsewhere.
Wichelt Imports carries more than 4,000 needlecraft products,
such as even-weave fabrics, which allow finished needleart products
to have a smooth appearance. They also supply instruction books
and graphs, many types of threads, as well as stitchery accessories
such as buttons, ribbons and needlecraft kits.
Wichelt was in on the cutting edge of the technological age
having set up their own website more than four years ago. They
do not sell retail but consumers can access the closest needlecraft
shop that carries their products from their website and any visitor
who signs their website guestbook is treated to a free graph.
There are many "sizes" of even weave fabrics. The
number of threads (holes) gives the count 10ct, 14ct, etc.
per inch. The more threads per inch, the finer the fabric and
the more detailed the stitching that can be accomplished. Because
the number of threads is equal in both directions, it is an ideal
ground for creating needle ART. Needlepoint is usually done on
an even weave canvas with fine wool yarn. Penelope is Wichelt
Import's most popular fabric used for needlepoint.
ct. - Penelope Canvas
Cross-stitch is done on cotton, linen, polyester, silk,
and fiber blends such as silk / linen.
These fiber blends create different textures and "hand".
Some are firmly woven and can be stitched without the use of
frames or hoops; others are soft and drape-able.
AIDA 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, 18, 20 counts A 100% cotton
fabric perfect for all types of cross-stitch. An excellent easy-to-count
fabric, yet allows fine details.
16 ct. Apple Blossom
18 ct. Sage
18 ct. - Natural
Jobelan® 16, 20, 25, 28, 32 counts 51% cotton
and 49% polyester with an elegant, soft, smooth, shimmering sheen.
It is an excellent fabric for pulled work, Hardanger and specialty
techniques as well as cross-stitching. Use as sampler, pillows,
table linens or any project that is desired.
16 ct. Bay Leaf
20 ct. Tan
25 ct. Cherub Pink
28 ct. - Latte
As a needleworker, whatever your interest - cross-stitch,
needlepoint or embroidery, Wichelt Imports is a full line distributor
ready to service all your needs. Trade inquiries welcomed!
N 162 Highway 35
Stoddard, WI 54658
Phone: (608) 788 - 4600
Fax: (608) 788- 6040
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This story has been excerpted from a Business of the Week
article which appeared in the April 10, 2000 issue of the La
Crosse Tribune of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Information provided
courtesy of the La Crosse Tribune Publications.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: No part of this feature story nor
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the prior written permission of the CARON Collection Ltd. or
the featured designers or contributors.