Monday, May 29, 2006

Of Food and Yarn Shops

It's Spring (well, if feels like Summer today) and the best part is that our Farmers' Market is now open. Every Saturday from 9:00 to 1:00, farmers, bakers, and craftspeople sell their wares. When we moved to town almost nine years ago, there were very few vendors; now, there are folks selling everything from free-range beef to homemade salsa to cheese and yogurt to fleece and handspun yarn.

Liz, from Pocket Farm got me thinking about eating "local." So much of the food that we consume is imported and for a lot of people, highly processed. It's possible to get asparagus in the dead of winter, as well as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. These fruits and veggies are imported from Central and South America. Think of the cost to transport them. Peaches can be had in March here in Virginia. Have you tasted one off-season? They are very un-peach-like. Think about the meals the average person eats--most likely it's a frozen meal, laden with sodium and preservatives.

There's a web site called Eat Local Challenge. Wander over there and read what the authors have to say. And if you aren't "eating local," think about ways you can incorporate more local food into your life. After you start getting food, especially produce, locally, at the peak of ripeness, you might never want to buy another peach from the regular grocery store again!

So what local food did we eat last night? Grilled green onions, grilled asparagus, and roasted new potatoes. We rounded out the meal with wild-caught grilled Alaskan salmon and halibut. That is definitely not local, but it is on the eco-friendly fish list.

Of Yarn Shops
Okay, so I'm going to do a little informal poll here. I've had this idea for about a year now to open my own yarn shop. And with every day that goes by, that idea gets stronger and stronger. If it comes to fruition, it's going to be more work than I can imagine, I'm going to take a huge cut in salary, and I won't have any time to knit or spin (and forget about picking up weaving again). And the business could fail. But still, that idea persists.

So, here are some questions that have been rolling around in my head and I need other knitters to provide the answers.

  1. What do you like best about your favorite yarn shop?

  2. What are the characteristics of your least favorite yarn shop?

  3. What do you think about the idea of combining a yarn shop with say, a coffee shop or a wine bar?

  4. Is there a particular yarn that you wish your yarn shop would carry?

  5. Describe the yarn shop of your dreams

You can post the answers in the comments or send an email to me at tlhsimondsAT verizonDOTnet. And thanks for helping out!


Sheepish Annie said...

OK, here goes:
My favorite LYS just closed :( I loved it because it was easy to get to and had great parking. plus,the selection was good and they carried yarns from local mills as well as the bigger names. For a while there they even had a cat! I don't drink, but I suspect that a wine bar would increase your sales!!! I always love the shops that have comfortable seating and encourage customers to "settle in" for a while. I always appreciated the fact that my old favorite allowed me to browse without someone following me about offering unwanted help but had someone available when I was ready to ask my silly questions.

Go for it!!! It sounds like you're ready to give it a go.

Jenn said...

Best: friendly, lets regular customers take needles home to "try them out," aren't offended if you are knitting with something not purchased there.
Worst: arranged by color (pretty but not helpful), rude to occasional and new customers, overpriced.
Love the idea of yarn shop/coffee bar. Two of my favorite things!
I wish my yarn shop would carry Socks that Rock, but they currently aren't distributing beyond the northwest (they tried to order some).
Yarn shop of my dreams: Big. Open. Yarn arranged by fiber content and weight. Lots of natural light. Lots of needles in various sizes/lengths. Lots of patterns. Open beyond 5 pm for those of us who work. Open on Saturday and Sunday.
Hope that helps!

Emily said...

Favorite yarn shops have a friendly atmosphere and great selection.

Least favorite yarn shops have included unfriendly staff, bad smell on yarn from secret smoking, no place to sit.

Coffee shop/wine bar? I think that's a great idea. Would increase sales even when someone couldn't buy yarn, they might buy something while they sit n knit. There seems to be a high correlation of knitterliness and foodiness, so your target market would appreciate it. Also, it would give the non-knitting spouses something to do.

Wishing for some Lorna's Laces at local LYS.

I would happily shop at either of the two described above in the "yarn shop of dreams."

Anonymous said...

1. Friendly staff and well-organized (by type, NOT by color!), and a great clearance aisle are all present at my favorite shop!
2. My least favorite local shop has a snotty owner who follows one around as if she suspects shoplifting, and nothing in the store has a pricetag on it. All the yarn is organized by color, and she seems not to ever stock enough yarn of any one type/color to make more than a scarf.
3. I think a combo coffee shop/wine bar/yarn shop is a top idea -- I've often dreamed of having a local place to go and shop and sit and knit and drink some coffee or wine.
4. I wish my local shops would carry Koigu, but that seems to be a Dallas-specific shortage! I also wish that more of my local shops carried fiber for spinning!
5. The yarn shop of my dreams would have a nice large table where EVERYONE could feel welcome (no shop cliques) to sit and knit, and everyone would be friendly and helpful. There would always be plenty of sock yarn, and maybe even some way to be able to swatch before buying. Lots of books!! Also coffee or wine would be nice ;)

~Jody said...

I've got three yarn shops in my area & I really don't like any of them as a favorite. They all have one issue or another. The one I go to most often is the only one that carries sock yarn. I think the most important thing about your shop should be friendly (at the sock yarn shop - they know my name I always get a kick out of that! )Also if you can manage it - spacious - I feel like I'm always tripping over other knitters or piles of yarn or patterns. A coffe shop sounds like a great plan.

Some of the things I dislike
1. The yarn isn't clearly priced (& when you ask they look at you like you've grown a second head)
2. No good selection of sock yarn.
3. snobby - if you didn't get the yarn from her it's unworthy
4. disorganized & messy
5. I bigger selection of needles - Carry Cyrstal Palace or Brittnay's or Addi's - something I can't get at AC Moore.

I also kinda wish one of my shops would take more intrest in a Stitch n B***** night - seems they only want you to come knit in their store if a. your buying their yarn or b. you've paid for a class - we have a great SnB group in our area but we're shunned at the LYS - so sad.

Anonymous said...

Well since Chris and I shop at the same LYSs, and we both pretty much like and dislike the same things I'll let her answer stand for mine.

Basically, a great LYS would be spacious yet cozy and comfortable (if you can afford it). Preferably with some personality. The staff would be friendly and helpful, but not hover. In our favorite store, the staff is always hard at work stocking or something, but they'll take the time to welcome you, ask if you need help if you look bewildered, and stop to help you when you ask.

A great LYS would have the room available for people to sit 'n knit, but an understanding that those folks do not make up a snobby group that shun other knitters.

Well-lit, clearly priced, sales/discount yarns easy to find (and no shame or stigma attached to those that buy only from that area), and organized by fiber (or brand?) - those are characteristics of a good store.

And I like the idea of a coffee shop/wine bar combined with it all. And having store copies of books and magazines for folks to flip through. This would encourage knitters to spend more time there, which should then encourage them to spend more money and buy more yarn. Wee!

But most of all, try to stay in contact and involved with the knitting (or spinning) scene. Always know that there's more than one or two clubs and trends, and that you'll need to constantly put out feelers (especially if there's a university nearby) for up & coming groups.

Hope all this blather helps.

Liz said...

Your farmers market sounds delightful. How wonderful that it's really growing over the years.

Ellen ( is in the process of opening a yarn shop here in Maine. You might want to pick her brain...she's found other LYS owners to be very helpful.

Comfy seats, spinning fiber, local handspun yarns, good basic yarn (local to your area if possible... here we have Peace Fleece & Bartlett). Knit nights are a must.

Coffee shop... definitely! with baked goods. I'm not sure about the wine, though.

And just so you know, the owner of the shop in Belfast, ME that opened three years ago has plenty of time for knitting. :) good luck!

quantumtea said...

My favourite yarn store is missing only two things, comfy seats, and a water cooler. Yarn is organised by fibre content (the cotton and acrylic room, bulky and exotic fibres room, novelty yarn room, and wool room, plus a sock yarn alcove, it's a big store), plenty of sock yarn, magazines, and patterns, really friendly staff. Lots of parking, and they don't pester you every moment you're there.

Hope that helps!