Sometimes all it takes is a sign of some sort to direct you on your path in life. It was a sign, in the literal sense, that led Pete and Carol Sickman-Garner to quit their jobs as a marketing manager and freelance editor, respectively, and fulfill their dream of owning a yarn shop.
“I was participating in the Kerrytown book festival, so I was sitting all day at my booth looking up at a sign that read, ‘This place for rent,’” said Sickman-Garner. “Carol said I’m going to write and see what the rent is, so she plugged the numbers in and said, ‘We can do this!’”
The Ann Arbor couple had actually been searching for a location to start their business. “We’re both 49, and we both decided if we were going to launch into a new career, we should do it now before we get too close to retirement.” The timing proved right since Carol was a “passionate knitter,” and “there was not a yarn shop in Ann Arbor at the time.”
Sickman-Garner recalls his wife telling him, “You know you’re going to have to learn to knit.” Carol, a knitter and crocheter, directed him to Youtube and books. “The very first thing I made was a scarf, and I gave it to Carol for her birthday,” he enthused, adding that he also plans to learn to crochet.
Around the same time he learned to knit, the couple opened the doors to Spun, a yarn shop located in Ann Arbor’s historic Kerrytown Market & Shops district near the downtown area at 407 N. Fifth. December 1 marks their 1-year-anniversary, however, there won’t be a celebration until the following day when Spun, like other shops in the district, will stay open until midnight as part of the Kerrytown Kindle Fest, which will be highlighted with discounts, games, prizes and more. “We’re going to have door prizes and discounts on yarn,” said Sickmann-Garner.
At Spun, customers can learn to knit and crochet, and shop for a “whole range” of needles and crochet hooks, stitch markers, hand-dyed yarns, and a “great selection” of handmade project bags from Scrap Happy. Yarn prices start at $6.50 a skein.
“We have a lot of yarn produced here in Michigan – some by farmers who only produce a very small amount. Those yarns will never make or break the store, but we’ll always have them on hand because we want to support the farmers,” said Sickman-Garner. Brands include Red Barn Farm out of Columbus, and Queso Cabeza which is produced in Olivet.
Spun invites knitting and crocheting groups to visit the shop for a free morning or afternoon of stitching. “We’ve met people from all over Michigan, and some have come from Ohio,” said Sickman-Garner. “We have room for eight people around a table, and 12 if they like each other!” Groups stay at least a couple hours, and some patronize restaurants throughout the three-story brick building, built in the late 1800s. (Sounds like a delightful day trip!)
The Sickman-Garners have two daughters, Lily, 13, and Robin, 10, who are both knitters, and according to their dad, “very accomplished in the kitchen.” They help him bake scones for groups that visit the shop, and tea from the “great” tea shop down the hall, is also made available. And, best of all – “it’s all on the house!”
So far, the couple has no regrets about their new beginning as entrepreneurs. “It’s very exciting to be able to run the business. We run the business, make decisions, put them in action – the two of us and our staff – without approval and permission,” said Sickman-Garner. “We have seven people who regularly work in the shop, and everybody is part time except me and Carol.”
In terms of the future, the venturesome business partners plan to take it one stitch at a time and “do everything a little better everyday.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Spun (407 N. Fifth, Ann Arbor) at (734) 780-7867 or firstname.lastname@example.org.