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Friends mourn the passing of Main Street shopkeeper

Theresa R. "Tina" Wolff, 66, owner of Tina's Quilt Shop and Cliff's Fix It Shop, died Sunday, Feb. 22, following a battle with cancer.

Over a dozen years ago, Wolff bought Cliff's Fix It, which had already been a Main Street landmark for decades. In 2000, after Mary's Café closed next door, Wolff rented that space and expanded her business by offering sewing and quilting classes.

During a Journal interview in 2006, Wolff said she walked into Cliff's 10 years earlier thinking of buying the inventory. Instead she bought the whole store.

"She came for the inventory, handed him a credit card and bought it right there from Tom (O'Connell) and went home and told her husband," said Wolff's friend Marie Kressly.

Curtis Wolff has operated Reliable Appliance Service in Bayport, Minn., for over 30 years.

"The people were friendly, they talked to you and treated you like neighbors," said Wolff of her decision to own the shop here. "River Falls is where I ought to be."

Wolff decided to keep the old name because in 1963 the original owner, Cliff Cole, taught her husband how to fix sewing machines.

Kressly said she went in to buy a sewing machine and made a friend. Because Wolff's health was fragile for some time, Kressly helped keep the business open.

Wolff was "a very generous, a very warm person," said Kressly.

She said the joke was that Wolff used "Tina's math" to set prices in the shop: "If she liked you, she was more generous."

"Nine years ago I walked into the shop to see if they sharpened scissors, and that was it," said Freshteh Eftekari. Her simple question turned into a long conversation, and before she left Wolff had hired Eftekari to do alterations.

Kressly said Wolff was generous with local schools, providing them machines at a discount.

"She always said that she doesn't need anything, so she just wanted to help," said Eftekari, recalling that Wolff was ready to help anyone who needed a hand, even complete strangers.

"No matter if it was an animal or a human, she was helping everybody," said Eftekari.

"The shop was her life," said Kressly. "Her health wasn't the best, and her family didn't necessarily want her down here so much, but they knew that was what she wanted."

"She loved fabric, just touching the design and the feeling," said Eftekari. "There is not a quilt in this town that you don't see her hand and her passion in it."

Wolff had health problems, said Eftekari. "But it didn't stop her from her work. Some days you could see she could hardly walk... But she just wanted to be here. She loved her shop."

Others loved the shop too, said Eftekari.

"It was like a little cozy corner for everybody," she said. "No matter how down you were, when you talked to her you would forget your pain."

In 2005 as area residents gathered donations for Hurricane Katrina victims, the shop became a collection site for handmade quilts.

Wolff was also involved with the Humane Society in Bayport and a devoted sponsor of the American Cancer Society, said her friends.

Kressly added, "She was quite a lady, a dear friend. I will miss her."

When Eftekari's mother died, the younger woman went to Wolff.

"Oh, Kiddo, you need a hug," said Wolff, and she embraced Eftekari, who still remembers that comfort.

"I feel like I lost my mom again," said Eftekari of Wolff's passing.

Private services will be held at a later date. The family requests memorials to the American Cancer Society. Arrangements are by Bradshaw Funeral and Cremation Services, Stillwater, Minn., 651-439-5511.