Skip to main content

Neenah drapery business stitches together decades of success

From an in-home business to a brick-and-mortar store, a lot has changed over the years with Sew Biz Drapery + Blinds

share arrow printer bookmark flag

December 27, 2023

NEENAH – For nearly four decades, Lori Burr has meticulously crafted drapery for commercial and residential projects throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

And though she’s been sharing her talents with the community through Sew Biz Drapery + Blinds for 37 years, Burr said her passion for sewing has spanned a lifetime.

Looking back, Burr said she has fond memories of learning to sew as a young girl – skills that have proven to be both entertaining and entrepreneurial.

“I started sewing when I was nine,” she said. “My grandmother was living with us at the time and had taught me sewing, crochet and embroidery.”

Burr put the generational skills she learned from her grandmother to good use, opening Sew Biz (located at 220 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Neenah), which specializes in window treatments, upholstery, solar screens and shutters.

The store also carries hardware items and outdoor furniture cushions and provides installation for everything it sells or sews.

The first stitch
Burr said she began sewing window treatments after purchasing her first home – with her own windows in need of drapery, she said it only made sense for her to create them herselves given her sewing background.

As she poured her heart into the sewing process, her talents quickly became a gift to others.

“Two of my sisters and I upholstered our parents’ living room furniture for their anniversary gift (with skills I learned from) a class at Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC),” she said. 

While at FVTC, Burr said her instructor had taken notice of her abilities and encouraged her creativity.

“The instructor had a decorating store at the time and suggested I connect with the designers working in his store,” she said. “That was in 1986, and I have been doing custom sewing since.”

In addition to the hands-on experience she received at FVTC and working in the decorating store, Burr said she used to check out books from the library to expand her skills.

“There was no Internet then to watch videos or tutorials (at the time),” she said. “I am mostly self-taught – as I like to say, ‘the school of hard knocks.’”

As her skills grew, Burr said so did interest – and she officially started Sew Biz Drapery out of her home in late 1986.

Opening a brick-and-mortar
Following years of steady business from her home, Burr officially opened a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Neenah in May 2003.

The move also prompted the hiring of seamstress Lisa Prellwitz.

Burr said one of the things that makes Sew Biz unique is the personal touches both she and Prellwitz adds to every project.

“(All) work is done by us in our store,” Burr said.

Meeting with each client to create pieces specifically tailored to their needs, Burr said, is one of the aspects of the business she enjoys the most.

Lori Burr said Sew Biz Drapery + Blinds specializes in window treatments, upholstery, solar screens and shutters. Submitted Photo

“I meet with the customer in their home, I get measurements and discuss what the goals are and what is possible,” she said.

After the initial in-home consultation, Burr said clients then come into the store to view samples and discuss project details.

A quote is then provided, a deposit is collected and a target date is established.

“When the job is complete, I install (the items),” she said. “Most of the time (I do it) by myself, but I do have a couple of helpers I can bring, if necessary.”

Over the years, Burr said business has remained pretty steady.

“We sew drapery every week,” she said. “I started out (doing that), and it is still relevant today.”

Burr said she also installs blinds several times a week and is always working on some type of upholstery project.

The fabric of success
In addition to continually evolving her skills of the trade, Burr said she credits her dedicated customers to her success.

?“We have loyal customers, most of our business is word of mouth,” she said.

Being able to network with other business owners, Burr said, has been an important opportunity, and encourages others to make those types of connections.

“Listen to others in your industry and keep your eyes open to other businesses, both successes and failures,” she said. “I have learned so much from others.”

Burr said she is also an advocate for SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives), a free mentorship program through the Small Business Administration.

If anything, in her decades in business, Burr said she’s proven that perseverance and creativity can open up a world of possibilities.

“Take the time necessary and discuss all the options,” she said. “Always do the best you can.”

As she looks to the future, Burr said she is proud of her business and being able to offer creative work to customers.

“We love what we do and we do it well,” she said. “I am sure we can help you make your home a place you love.”

Sew Biz Drapery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and is available by appointment only on Saturday.

For more information, visit their website at

share arrow printer bookmark flag