The CARON Collection is pleased to feature one of the
outstanding shops who so ably provide stitchers with not only
supplies but guidance, technical expertise, and inspiration.
We hope you'll support your local shops and browse through our
extensive SHOP LISTINGS to find a shop near you.
The Red Rooster
in Newburgh, Indiana
by Rita Vainius
Today, Newburgh, Indiana on the shores of the Ohio River,
is a quaint historic town. But, in the 1850's, Newburgh was actually
the largest river port between Cincinnati and New Orleans. When
John Sprinkle landed on its shores in 1803 to establish a settlement,
it seemed the perfect place to build his home site just as many
believe it is today.
One such resident is Peggy Wilhelmus, the proprietor of the
Red Rooster Stitchery. Peggy has entrepreneurship in her blood.
Her father, John Gentil's, parents operated a family restaurant
called Gentil's Café. When Peggy's mom, Freida, later
remarried, she worked with her husband in their own business,
Brown's Boats and Motors.
Owner of the Red Rooster Stitchery
Peggy grew up in the larger town of Mt. Vernon, also on the
Ohio River and spent every weekend swimming, water skiing and
boating in its waters She tagged along after her older brother,
Robert, but also loved playing with her dolls. At 12, Peggy became
fascinated with antiques and began her first collection, seeking
out old saltcellars, of which she now possesses over 100. She
branched out into acquiring other items, being especially appreciative
of objects made by hand. Even as a child she recognized the talent,
skill, patience and craftsmanship that creating them entailed.
Peggy, not surprisingly, refers to herself as a sentimental "pack
rat," a trait that influenced her choice of the Red Rooster
Stitchery's motto: "Where Heirlooms Begin."
The strongest impact upon the direction Peggy's life has taken
has been her own upbringing. Grandmother Gentil always had needle
in hand, most often a crochet hook. She taught Peggy a variety
of needlework techniques. Grandma's Christmas present to Peggy,
when she was 8, was a suitcase brimming with doll clothes made
for Peggy's Terri Lee doll. There were scores of hand-stitched
mix-and-match outfits replete with ruffles, ribbons, belt loops
and miniature buttons and accessories such as beach towels, hats,
shawls and handbags. At least 80 of these treasured items remain
in Peggy's possession to this day and are lovingly taken out
of storage to grace her Christmas tree. Her uniquely decorated
tree has even been featured on a local TV station to exemplify
the true meaning of Christmas "The Gift of Love."
Peggy's Christmas Tree
Decorated with Her Grandmother's
Handmade Doll Clothes
Peggy's childhood artistic pursuits resulted in, among other
things, winning a poster contest in grade school and, as a teenager,
fashioning the dress she wore at her brother's wedding. After
high school Peggy attended Indiana State College. While pursuing
her studies she worked at the Mead Johnson Company as a lab technician
doing vitamin analysis in the quality control department. Peggy
adds, "I do believe this job helped me to train my eye for
proportion and scale," an exceedingly useful skill in her
While Peggy had engaged in embroidery projects of various
kinds over the years, it was not until she was married and expecting
a child, Scott Michael that she took up needlepoint. She purchased
her needlework supplies from a local shop owned by Jo Gess and
her daughter, Vicki Perry. They asked Peggy to come work for
them, which she did when Scott was nine years old. A year and
half later she was invited to attend market in Atlanta. On the
return trip, Jo asked if Peggy would be interested in buying
the business! Peggy elaborates, "After the initial excitement,
it was time for prayer and figuring out the finances."
Peggy took ownership on September 1, 1981 and immediately
made some radical changes. She relocated the shop from a building
on a country road to a house in downtown Newburgh, doubling its
size in the process. Peggy also increased the number of days
the shop was open from 3 to 5 days a week. These alterations
had an immediate positive impact in transforming the business.
After renting for 4 years, Peggy purchased the home that housed
her shop, a lovely circa 1890's Victorian cottage. A plaque on
the house identifies it as being built by the Cooch Family in
1891. Henry and Caroline Cooch are responsible for contributing
greatly to the progress of Newburgh at the turn of the century.
Five Rooms within the home are devoted entirely to needlework.
The Front Room features a variety of stunning hand painted canvases,
another holds threads and fibers of every variety; there are
even separate rooms designated for Christmas and Cross Stitch.
A fifth room displays yet more canvases, has seven shelves of
books and is stocked with embellishments such as Mill Hill beads.
An anonymous source has informed Peggy that the house harbors
a benevolent guardian angel. We're inclined to believe it.
Aside from the dramatic changes in location and schedule,
Peggy considerably increased the shop's inventory and has continued
to do so throughout her tenure. The shop specializes in needlepoint,
offering pre-worked, charts and hand painted canvases galore,
as well as catering to cross-stitchers with patterns, fabrics
Peggy, herself, is especially thrilled herself with the fabulous
assortment of threads and fibers that have been made available
to stitchers in recent years. Her selection of the Caron Collection
includes the full line of Soie Cristale, Impressions and Snow
and selected colors of Waterlilies, Watercolours and Wildflowers.
Special orders are always welcomed and accommodated readily.
Peggy and her staff of three, Pat Mazu, Elizabeth Condi and Stacy
Connors, are aces in color and thread selection. Offered as well
are custom design and finishing services.
Staff of the Red Rooster Stitchery