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If you’re a longtime crafter, chances are the name Mary Maxim rings a bell with you, even if you’ve never set foot in one of its three locations, or placed an order online or by phone with the craft and needlework company.

It all started in Sifton, Manitoba, Canada, when husband and wife Willard and Olive McPhedrain bought a company that produced and sold spinning wheels: Spinwell Manufacturing. Then, in 1954, the business, which had been turned into a mail order company called Sifton Products, was relocated to Paris, Ontario, and renamed Mary Maxim. In 1956, a store was opened in Port Huron.

“The fourth generation is here now. Rusty McPhedrain, he’s the third generation, and his two sons, Chad and Mitch, are in the process of taking over,” said Heather Mango, social media coordinator for Mary Maxim US, who once managed the yarn department in the Port Huron store, before instructing knitting and crocheting classes, and designing patterns for their catalog.

“The store started first in Canada, and then moved over here,” continued Mango. “We have a whole other division in Paris, Ontario, where we have a separate warehouse. And, we have a store in London, Ontario, but the Port Huron store is the only brick and mortar store in the U.S. We were originally located in downtown Port Huron, then we came to the (2001) Holland Ave. location.”

Named after a former employee, Mary Maximchuk, the store became popular among crafters because of its yarn, and original patterns for heavy sweaters with wildlife themes created with intarsia knitting. “We were the first to do the graph design for pattern knitting,” said Mango. “Classic Mary Maxim sweaters were done in all wool, but they did not sell well. Our customers prefer something they can machine wash and dry. We do carry yarn from other companies — Cascade, Berroco — labels where people can get the natural fibers.”

Most Mary Maxim brand yarns range from $2.99 to $3.99 a skein, with their “most expensive ball” priced at $6.99. “That’s our Milan, which is kind of like Noro in the look and feel of it. That’s an acrylic wool blend, and because it has wool in it, it has that vibrant color because wool takes color very well,” explained Mango.

As a community outreach, they have what’s called the Fairy Godmothers Program. “It’s a group of volunteers who get together the second Wednesday of every month, and they basically — during the month — work on projects to donate,” said Mango. “If we’re working on a design for the catalog, the design team saves all the leftover yarn and donates it to the Fairy Godmothers, and they take that along with any overstock yarn. They work with (charitable) organizations in the community to make dog beds for shelters, and hats, mittens, and blankets are given to homeless shelters. They meet in our classroom. Nancy Jungquist is head of the Fairy Godmothers.”

Other fun activities at Mary Maxim in Port Huron include beginning knitting and crocheting classes, a quilting group, a ladies’ night out, Club 50 (anyone 50 and over receives 20 percent off every first Tuesday), and a tent sale. This year’s tent sale is Aug. 10-Sept. 5, ending on a Club 50 day! (Sounds like an exciting day trip to add to your list!)

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com.

Contact Mary Maxim in Port Huron (2001 Holland) at (800) 962-9504 or marymaxim.com.

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