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Meet the Reps: Erin, Debra, and Tom

Meet the Reps: Erin, Debra, and Tom

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Today we'll share news of three more Moda reps. Erin and Tom are long-time Moda employees, while Debra joined the ranks more recently. Read on for tales of Grizzlies (with a capital G), grizzlies (with a lowercase G), and puppy breath.

First up is Erin Fleming. Erin’s been with Moda for eight years and her territory consists of western Montana, northern Idaho, and most of Washington.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Erin: I love working for Moda! (That's Erin with Mr. Dunn, above.) Besides working for the best company ever, I am so lucky to have the wonderful customers that I do. We are like family. (Customers from Helena, below.) The talent that I get to see from my customers and their customers is amazing. When I leave their shops, I’m inspired! 

Tell us about a typical day.

Erin: My day usually starts with an 8 a.m. appointment. Depending upon where I’m at, I can see two to three customers a day. I pack most of my own food and rarely eat out. Lunch is almost always eaten in the car on my way to my next appointment. (Below is the view from Erin's home in Charlo, Montana.)

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

Erin: In the summer we spend as much time as possible on my pontoon boat with family and friends (that's Erin with her grandson on the boat, above). I also like to spend time outside in the yard.

In the fall we attend the University of Montana Grizzly football games. And of course, I quilt and work on wool projects when I can. 

Now let's hear from Tom Matheny. Tom had his 14thanniversary with Moda this past July and had worked in the industry for 25 years before that. His territory includes all of Florida, the state of Georgia south of Atlanta, and a little bit of Alabama and South Carolina. 

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? 

Tom: Working with and alongside shop owners and being an advocate for my shops. This industry is filled with good people.

Tell us about something unusual that happened to you on the road.

Tom: I know as sales reps we all have our share of stories, but three come to mind. 

1. I had a shopowner whose Mom raised Aussies for agility trails. When I set up my appointment I always asked if she had a litter so I could get my fix of puppy breath. They always came through for me...LOL.

2. I once took over a shop when the owner had to leave to retrieve her granddaughter from school because she had broken her arm. Thank goodness it was a slow day and the school was close!

3. I had a guy roll his car right in front of me. I ended up cutting him out of his seatbelt as he hung upside down because there was so much gas leaking. I was a little late for my first appointment!

Tell us about a typical day in the life of a Moda rep. 

Tom: I’m up by 6:30 a.m. and out most mornings by 8 a.m. or earlier. I try to see two shops a day but it really depends on the area where I am working. I tend not to stop for lunch. If I do anything it might be peanuts or pretzels (my favorite snacks) or peanut butter cheese crackers. For overnights, I am not above fast food but try to limit that. When I’m in Georgia, there is a little restaurant in Conyers where I may have their house salad with grilled chicken every night. It is so, so good.

Share a tip for spending so much time on the road.

Tom: Google voice has made life easy, especially since most of my states have hands-free cell laws. I love that I can ask it to make a call to anyone. It comes in handy if I get caught in traffic, which happens a lot on I-75 and I-4 in Florida.

How do you pass the time while you drive?

Tom: I usually have on music. Lately it’s been classic Bob Seeger but I have been known to listen to Celtic (bagpipes) or hick hop. If I need a calmer, I put on Jesse Cook or The Rat Pack.

What do you do for fun when you're not on the road? 

Tom: I love to fish or boat when I can. I also love genealogy, but it can be a huge time suck. I play on Ancestry and on 23 and Me, but have to step away every once in a while.

You could probably sell a lot of things—why have you chosen fabric? Do you sew?

Tom: I didn’t choose fabric it, it chose me. I started out selling art supplies and 6 months in they discontinued them and I picked up fabric. I have a featherweight—does that count?

What’s something people don’t know about you? 

Tom: Most people don’t know that I have a degree in fine art. My main focus was painting and printmaking. I understand color and composition and one of the highlights for me in a store is when I can help a customer put together a quilt. I don’t think that they expect that from a guy...LOL!

I am also plenty handy around the house. My dad was the consummate DIY-er and we learned early you didn’t hire things done. Good or bad, he only tried to electrocute me once.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Tom: Most of my shops know but some don’t... I am married to Amy [Matheny] who also works at Moda and while her job responsibilities are different than mine, she does occasionally make sales calls. 

I would tell my stores if they happen to see her for an appointment, she is the most passionate and one of the smartest people I know when it pertains to the industry and they would find counsel in her advice. (That's Tom and Amy above outside the Cologne Philharmonic Hall in Germany.)

And finally, let's hear from Debra Coffman. Debra's been with Moda since October, 2018, and in the quilting industry since 2010. Her territory includes most of Colorado, and parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Utah and South Dakota. 

How did you get started in the industry? 

Debra: Before working in the quilting industry, I was in the interior design industry at F. Schumacher & Co. where I worked with many different fabrics from silks to embroideries, and that is where mt love of fabrics started. I have taken some sewing classes and was really into making bags—everyone in my family got bags!  Now I am liking all of the quilt patterns that are using collage techniques and finished my first cat collage and want to do more. 

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? 

Debra: I am so happy to be with Moda and there are many aspects of this job I love, from the beautiful product and designs we carry to the wonderful shop owners I work with. (Debra's with two of them in the photo below, at the Moda Customer Appreciation party at Quilt Market.) Over the years they have become friends and like family and they make the traveling not so lonely. I like the fact that when I walk out the door every day is different and I get to see what the shops are working on—all the quilts are like pieces of art to me! 

I feel truly fortunate to be with such an incredible company that cares about this industry and is dedicated to making a quality product.  It is so nice to walk into a shop and have the owners and associates so excited to see what I have in my bag! I am amazed at the talent of the designers and never get tired of showing fabric. Now that I carry notions I am learning a whole new area of the industry and that makes it challenging and even more fun. 

Tell us about something unusual that happened to you while you were on the road.

Debra: During a trip to Wyoming I brought my sister along with me so she could see what I did. It was quite memorable because we saw a grizzly bear, moose, and lots of elk. 

Heading back to Colorado she wanted to see some big horn sheep, so we stopped at a place where the Visitor Center said we could see some. Well, we didn’t see any sheep but I thought I saw some wild horses walking over a ridge (known to be in this area) so we drove that way.

Turns out they weren’t so wild, as they moseyed up to the car and surrounded us and started to bite the hood of my brand, new car. Never could get the marks off as they went down to the metal. Every time I washed the car I thought of that epic trip!

How do you pass time on the road? 

Debra: I listen to a lot of NPR and like hearing what is going on in each of the states I cover and also to see what the weather is like. I also listen to a lot of music from my playlists which include the Lumineers, First Aid Kit,  and James McMurtry. I love watching the landscapes change from state to state and season to season, minus winter 😊and I am always excited when I see hawks and eagles. 

On my longer trips I bring a lot of my own food and snacks and a ton of water…there isn’t a trip that I go on that I don’t bring popcorn or tea with me. I have my own water kettle so that I can make tea anytime I like in the hotel rooms and luckily most have microwaves so I can make popcorn. After my appointments I find the local grocery store and pick up a salad & a microwave dinner, always fruit & oatmeal for breakfast and yogurt and granola for lunch.

Luckily my husband Brock is an amazing cook and always has wonderful dinners for me when I am home, so that balances out my so-so dinners on the road. (That's Debra with Brock below, in Geneva, New York.)

What do you do for fun when you’re not on the road? 

Debra: I try and catch up on some gardening. Denver is challenging with the weather and dry summers but my husband Brock and I have learned to work with native plants and we focus on plants and flowers for the birds, bees, butterflies, and love when we get monarchs on the milkweed and hummingbirds at the feeders.  I also like to paint but traveling so much makes it difficult but I can usually do some little watercolors here and there. (That's a painting of an agave by Debra, below.)

And, of course, when I am home I make the most of some good snuggle time with our dog Luna and cat Oscar.

They luckily get along great and I love taking pictures of them together. I have hundreds of them and am thinking I should start an Instagram account with them.

I also volunteer with Denver Audubon and am on their Fundraising Committee. I have found that being in sales is a great way to walk up to a complete stranger and ask for donations. We have family all across the country so my husband Brock and I usually spend any extra vacation time visiting them.

So there you have it—three more of Moda's amazing reps. We've still got some more to come, so if we haven't covered your part of the country, stop back in the coming weeks for more!

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