Shooting the Breeze with Stephen Sachnik

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It took some research, but Stephen Sachnik, owner of The Quilted Skein in La Grange allows me to celebrate my love of quilts and come to grips with my fabric-hoarding problem that exists although I don’t sew.

Secret confession: As a high school senior, while others were setting in darts and tailoring waistbands, I made four napkins and four placemats. Took me all semester to do that. (My home economics teacher still has the napkins and placemats some 35 years later.) Maybe it was wrapping up in my Grandmother Dickie’s hand-pieced, hand-quilted quilts while growing up (no central heat for us) that inspires my fabric love. I do know my quilt-guilt was the genesis for locating a quilter for “Shooting the Breeze” to carry on this issue’s “makers” theme.

And while The Quilted Skein is one of the nation’s only combination fabric/yarn store, Sachnik is not a run-of-the-mill shop owner. He is a museum CFO who knits and makes his own dress shirts.

Just the Facts
Name: Stephen Sachnik
Occupation:  CPA; Chief Financial Officer, Houston Museum of Natural Science; owner, The Quilted Skein (open Wed. through Sunday; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday; and 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday.
DOB: September, 1956
Hometown: Houston
Education: Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, several degrees from the University of Houston

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When I was six, I wanted to be: No idea. My father is a real genius—16 or 17 patents. He told all of us we could be what we wanted to be, so I figured it would sort itself out when it had to.

 What would I tell a 16-year-old Stephen Sachnik? Learn at least one foreign language. (Sachnik, who speaks also speaks Spanish, travels internationally for the museum.)

 What was your first paying job? I was a waiter at age 13 in my grandfather’s restaurant, Amador’s. He came to Texas from Mexico as a young boy. He was a water boy in a hotel at age 5. He shared his insight and wisdom but it was not always what I wanted to hear.

 How did you come to open a fabric/yarn store in La Grange? We bought a place outside La Grange, as a weekend getaway from Houston. (We live downtown.) I’ve always dreamed of owning my own business. As a CPA, I’ve spent lots of time helping small businesses get their books set up.

My passion is baking, so I thought I’d open up a bakery. However, one of my assistants at the museum challenged me to make my own dress shirts. Thus my sewing experience was born. I wasted lots of wonderful cotton mastering that. I also took up knitting and began visiting yarn and fabric stores all over the world while traveling for the museum.

I thought: How hard could it be? So I found this space, spent a year rehabbing it—it was in HORRIBLE condition—and now La Grange has one of the few yarn/fabric combination stores in the country. (It’s conveniently located next door to the Texas Quilt Museum.)

 What would you tell people about operating a business in a small town? It is very different than operating a business in a large city.

 What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Treat people the way you want to be treated.

 Who is your favorite author? That’s a tie, Agatha Christie and Taylor Caldwell.

What are you reading right now? I read so much, I have a hard time remembering titles. It’s something about ISIS. Fiction. All fiction.

 Red or white? Red.

 Early or late? Late.

Haven’t been to the grocery store, and dinner time looms. What do you do? I’d do a mushroom risotto and salad with homemade dressing, of course. My mother was an only child and her passion was cooking. She was generous in passing on her talents.

Pickled beets, eggs or pigs feet? Oh dear, I guess eggs.

 If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Mounds of avocados surrounded by mounds of dark chocolate. Those are my two favorite things.

 What is your favorite thing to cook? Breads and pastries.

 Favorite vacation spot? Puerto Vallarta.

What famous person do people say you resemble? Tom Hanks. I met one of my assistants’ mother. Afterwards, she told her: “I can’t believe you work for Forrest Gump!”

 What is the biggest compliment you’ve ever received?  Probably about this store—about how I’ve made it a destination. Our very first class had eight women, from age 72 to 86. We had them all knitting within a week or so.

 What are you afraid of? Heights.

 First car? Blue Dodge Charger.

Dream car? One that runs without requiring service.

Last picture you took with your phone? Jack-o-lantern made by his partner.

How do you start a conversation? Definitely not ‘what sup?’

Every day I: Take a look around and be thankful for where I am.

I am never without:  Margaritas in the freezer.

Can you tell a joke? Yes. I love hearing people laugh.

The funniest person in your life:  Me.

What’s next? Retirement some day and hopefully, baking bread and selling it on the square in Puerto Vallarta.

What do you tell people about La Grange? Wonderful community. Very careful about its growth.

What does being a “maker” mean to you? To me, it’s someone who is fulfilling their wants, desires and dreams. I have been accused of having too many of those. But why shouldn’t we want to try it all?

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photos and interview by Katie Dickie Stavinoha