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Karen Newman, of Aberdeen, watches as JOANN associate Shanice Testerman cuts sections of Baltimore Ravens-pattern fabric for her, which Newman will incorporate into gifts she is making for the holidays. Such services are available at the JOANN store in Bel Air, where a grand-reopening was celebrated Friday after the store went through major renovations.
Karen Newman, of Aberdeen, watches as JOANN associate Shanice Testerman cuts sections of Baltimore Ravens-pattern fabric for her, which Newman will incorporate into gifts she is making for the holidays. Such services are available at the JOANN store in Bel Air, where a grand-reopening was celebrated Friday after the store went through major renovations. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Paula Keefer, manager of the Joann store in Bel Air, greeted customers lined up outside of the store Friday morning for its grand re-opening after extensive renovations — the line included a mix of new faces and familiar faces Keefer has come to know over her 21 years with the company.

“Thank you so much for coming and hanging out with us this morning, our loyal folks!” Keefer called out as people filed through the entrance.

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The fabrics and craft store, located in Bel Air’s Tollgate Marketplace shopping center at Routes 1 and 24, was recently remodeled as one of the Ohio-based Joann’s Concept Stores that have been opening around the country since 2018.

People can shop for materials and tools for their craft projects, and they can also work on those projects at a Concept Store thanks to features such as a Creators’ Studio space for classes and events, tools that can be rented by the hour such as a “long arm” quilting machine and Glowforge laser etching machine, the Joann Custom Shop with its custom sewing services and the Cut Bar, where employees will cut customers’ fabric into sections, according to a company news release.

The Bel Air location was one of six Joann Concept Stores that opened around the U.S. on Friday, according to Regional Vice President Michael White, who attended the opening with Nadeera Jones, district manager for Maryland.

“We decided on Bel Air as a key location for us — strong customer base, great community support,” White said.

Keefer said she is “really happy” that her company has invested in a "refresh” of the 46,000 square-foot Bel Air store, which she noted has new paint, new fixtures and new LED lights. Dignitaries from the Town of Bel Air and Harford County, such as Mayor Susan Burdette, Town Administrator Jesse Bane and County Councilman Tony Giangiordano, were on hand for the grand re-opening.

“It’s really been a lovely group of people, customers and dignitaries alike,” Keefer said.

The manager chatted with longtime Joann customer Nicky Polyak, of Churchville, as she left the store. Polyak said she had purchased some ribbon during her visit Friday morning; the professional seamstress said she purchases materials for home sewing and quilting projects, as well as for her business.

“I think I’m in here at least once a week now,” she said.

Polyak said she thinks the remodeled store is “beautiful,” with its upgraded lighting and greater variety of fabrics.

“The [long] arm quilting machine, I know I’m definitely going to be using that at some point,” she said.

Yvonne Smith, of Churchville, pushed a cart through a section of the store featuring crafting materials and tools for children. She was with 4-year-old Lexie Tallon, whom she considers an adopted granddaughter, as her family and Lexie’s family are friends, and she has helped care for Lexie since the girl was 4 months old.

Smith operates a small wreath business, and said she and Lexie work on home projects together. Lexie hopped around the aisles, eagerly picking out items and showing them to Smith, items such as a Singer sewing machine for children.

“When you get a little older, you can get one of these,” Smith said of the sewing machine, which is for children ages 8 and older, according to the box.

Smith did decide to go with a box of Kinetic Sand, which can be molded by hand into a variety of shapes.

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“We’ve been wanting to try that out,” she said.

Aberdeen resident Karen Newman chatted with store associate Shanice Testerman at the Cut Bar as Testerman cut sections of Baltimore Ravens-pattern fabric for her.

“My husband’s a Steelers fan so that makes for some interesting conversions in the house,” Newman joked.

Newman, who also had a pile of solid-color fabrics nearby, said she is using the material to make quilts for the holidays, with Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers themes.

“I travel here [to Bel Air] from Aberdeen just to go to Joann,” Newman said.

Associate Missy Meininger, who teaches quilting and sewing and is a store manager, gave a demonstration of the Glowforge machine. She picked out a hummingbird design on a laptop, which then transferred the pattern to the machine.

“This is my new passion,” she said of the Glowforge.

The machine, in a matter of minutes, automatically cut a circle out of a sheet of clear medium-thickness acrylic and then etched the hummingbird image into the circle.

“It’s really great for doing wedding favors, different types of table decor,” Meininger said.

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