ASHTON — At an age when most people are spending their time taking it easy after years of work, Ashton’s Laurie Dance has created her own business called The Minky Quilt Shop.

Dance set up the shop last year after retiring from work at the Rexburg Vision Center. Prior to her retirement, she worked on quilts after work, but eventually found that after a full day of work and then making quilts for clients well into the late evening hours, it proved to be too much.

“I had too many irons in the fire — working full time and going home and sewing,” she said.

When an Ashton building — home of a former movie theater — came available at 523 Main St. in February, Dance decided that was the time to start her own quilt shop. Yet, shortly after opening, COVID-19 hit the country. At the time, Dance was running an online business called Cuddle Soft Kits that did really well during the pandemic. With extra time on their hands, Dance’s clients learned to quilt and relied on her kits. Additionally, despite the pandemic, her store still did well, with customers making appointments to meet with her.

With some COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, Dance finds that her business continues to do well. The minky material is a draw for quilters and for those just looking for a comfortable warm blanket. It’s more comfortable than cotton but not as slippery as silk, thus the draw, she said.

“I’m so obsessed with minky,” she said. “First of all, it’s soft. Second, the prints are so fun. Everybody likes their own unique blanket.”

Dance recalled visiting with a minky fabric representative who showed her numerous swatches.

“It was, ‘Oh, I like that.’ Pretty soon, he said, ‘Do you have a budget?’ I said, ‘You just took all the fun out of it,’” she said. “I think I have a really good variety. I try to carry the school colors and the lodgey prints for all the cabins that are up here.”

According to icefabrics.com, minky fabric is made out of 100 percent polyester: “Minky fabric is like wool, but soft and thick. ... Minky plush fabric is a synthetic, hypoallergenic fabric. Although different among quality brands, all minky fabric is a knitted fabric that gives it an ultra-soft feel while maintaining durability. It is also available in weights and pile heights, giving you the ability to choose the right material for the right project.”

Married to Fremont County Commissioner-elect Blair Dance for 46 years, the couple are parents of five children and 17 grandchildren. The Minky Quilt Shop is the second business that the Dances have operated. Having previously owned a successful property management business motivated Laurie Dance to start a business of her own.

“I think after doing one, you know you can,” she said.

When the former Porters and the subsequent store A.C. Moore went out of business, much of the minky material in the region went with them. As a result, Dance decided to set up The Minky Quilt Shop.

“Those of us who like the true minky quality thought, ‘Where do we go?’ I decided to open a shop,” she said. “It’s just fun. I’m retired, but I wanted to do one more thing.”

Laurie Dance says that Blair is supportive of her business venture, but thinks she’s awfully busy.

“Sometimes my husband says, ‘I think you bought yourself a dairy farm.’ I’m here a lot, but I’m fine,” she said.

Laurie Dance finds that her shop is draw to residents who not only love her quilts but who also went to the movies there.

“They have such good memories, and that’s kind of cool,” she said.

In the building’s former theater — that the couple calls “the great and spacious” — they rent out storage space for everything from snowmobiles to boats. The building also comes with nine apartments.

Laurie Dance learned to quilt while in high school. She still uses her Bernina sewing machine that is 48 years old.

“I got it before I graduated from high school,” she said.

Thanks to that sewing machine, she developed a love of quilting that eventually led her to start a quilting business. She says that no matter what someone’s age is, if they want to start their own business, they should go for it.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t let age stop you,” she said. "If you have a passion for it, then do it. I have a passion for minky."

The Minky Quilt Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday or by appointment. For more information, call 208-821-7424 or visit cuddlesoftkits.com.