Longmont Yarn Shoppe Expanding to Main Street Storefront
Longmont Yarn Shoppe
What: Re-opening in expanded storefront
Where: 454 Main St.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
What: LYS customer trunk show
What: LYS sixth birthday celebration
When: Sept. 7 and 8
Theme: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”
For sale: Specialty rose cellulose and alpaca yarn, hand-dyed a limited edition color; rose chocolates; rose hydrosol spray
What: LYS fashion show
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 15
Where: Main Street in front of Longmont Yarn Shoppe
The Longmont Yarn Shoppe buzzed with activity Tuesday afternoon, the store’s last day of business before reopening in an expanded space on Saturday.
Staff milled about, helping customers and potential customers with their knitting and crochet projects. The regular Tuesday night knitting group gathered around a dining table as new Ikea furniture sat half-assembled on the floor.
On the back wall, staff put up a board where customers could leave post-it notes suggesting ideas for the store expansion into the front half of the 454 Main St. space.
Building owners Steve and Marlene Collins chose to close Discovery’s Egyptian Imports and lease the front of the building to the Longmont Yarn Shoppe.
Between Tuesday and Saturday, staff and subcontractors have a lot of work to do to complete the expansion into the front half of the storefront, store owner Gail Sundberg-Douse said.
But the expansion is good news for the store, which has become a community gathering place since its opening in September 2012, Sundberg-Douse said.
“I mean, it’s so crowded in here sometimes that we can’t change our mind without going outside,” she said. “We want weaving classes, which take up more space because the looms take up more space. We’ll have the back of the building devoted to classroom space and the front will still be retail.”
Sundberg-Douse was working as a registered nurse when he sister bought two pregnant alpacas and didn’t know what to do with the fleece the animals generated. Sundberg-Douse began knitting and other members of the family pitched in and learned other fiber skills to help off-load some of the fleece.
But the yarn stores in Longmont kept closing and so Sundberg-Douse started ordering yarn wholesale and selling it out of her house. Eventually, her husband suggested she go ahead and start a yarn store of her own. She set out with a goal of making it much more than just a store.
“People ask if I miss nursing and I say, well I’m still nursing, because this is about relating to and caring for people. The yarn is just the medium — the drug,” Sundberg-Douse said. “I’ve been in so many yarn stores that felt snooty and indifferent and I left feeling small and unimportant. I vowed that would never happen here.”
Earlier in the day, Sundberg-Douse helped a woman with a knitting project for half an hour. The woman brought in yarn from elsewhere, needles from elsewhere and a pattern from elsewhere, but Sundberg-Douse sat with her and demonstrated how to salvage the garment.
“My thought is that if we can spend time with someone and help them and coach them on how to get back on track, then they will come to us when they do need to buy supplies for the next project,” she said. “We love our customers right and left. We make them cookies. We make them tea. We rub their shoulders. We listen. And when things happen, like the flood or like a traumatic national event, people gather here, not to shop, but just to be.”
With the help of business coach Cathy Wagner, Sundberg-Douse has proved that caring and expert customer service in a fiber arts niche can pay off. The Yarn Shoppe has grown by 20 to 25 percent every year, adding supplies for crocheting, felting, rug hooking, punch needling, weaving and spinning.
It serves as a marketplace for local artisans, selling everything from hand-knitted bobble hats to Longmont Yarn Shoppe merchandise to felting kits to wool handbags. There are classes and a custom-fit program for sweater-makers. The annual trunk show and fashion show are coming up in September, as well as the store’s sixth birthday celebration, which will feature a type of rose cellulose and alpaca fiber sold nowhere else in the United States.
The store was only open five days a week at first, but opened on Sundays two years ago and on Mondays in April.
In anticipation of the expanded space that will be available, Sundberg-Douse also recently hired an additional employee who has expertise in weaving and spinning.
Sundberg-Douse wants to keep doing what she has been doing, adding more breadth and depth to the store, while keeping the community gathering place spirit.
“My idea is to have some space to be an event center, where we can have birthday parties for kids and teens, or we can have bridal or baby showers where everyone makes a washcloth for the baby,” she said. “The youth are so totally into making things, we could have summer camps for different age groups.”
Sundberg-Douse teared up a few times talking about how hard she has worked to make the shop successful, with the support and advice of Wagner and store manager Jane Anderson.
“I’m super proud of this place. And I’m super tired, too, but right now I’m really excited,” she said.
Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, email@example.com or twitter.com/ktonacci