In recent years, a number of yarn shops throughout Metro Detroit closed their doors for one reason or another — mainly from stiff competition with the internet and big box stores that now offer wider selections and surprisingly better-quality yarns. So it makes one wonder why on earth would someone who’s aware of what’s happening in the industry invest in opening a yarn shop, or purchase an existing one?
Just last year, longtime knitter Sam Gill and his partner Mike Brunck, an avid crocheter, decided to venture out and become proprietors of their own yarn shop. They became the new owners of PK Yarn Over Knit, renaming it the Yarn Stop to symbolize a new beginning. The shop is at 25 S. Main in downtown Clawson.
“We wanted to try it because we could not let another one (yarn shop) close. We figured it was something we could do, and do well, so we took the leap,” explained Gill. And, yes, the two have had a very successful first year, admitting that becoming owners of an already established shop played a big role in their achievement, in addition to its location.
“It’s not easy for a specialty retail business to make a strong go of it its first year, especially in this niche. Downtown Clawson is phenomenal,” said Gill. “There’s loads of parking, free parking right in front of the store, and loads of activities that bring people down here. If you want to come in and sit (and knit), you don’t have to rush to the parking meter.
When the pair became owners of the shop, they started with a newsletter list of 650 customer names and emails, and during the past year they’ve been able to add 350 more. Gill said, “The ancient arts of knitting and crocheting are gaining popular momentum now.”
The fact that the Ferndale couple has far exceeded their first-year expectations is due, in part, to customer service. “We provide services that big box stores can’t. We greet everybody that comes in the door. We make sure we can help them find what they’re looking for and, basically, we give the customer service that we want to receive when we go into any type of store — attention (and) helpfulness,” remarked Gill. “And, we have a lot of textures and colors on the wall. It’s been a year’s process, and it’s an ever-changing inventory.”
The past year has been filled with fun activities for customers. “We’ve done an open house as a fundraiser for Mittens for Detroit. We have a tip jar for winding of the yarn, and every month, that (money) goes to a different organization. When we wind yarn for somebody, we don’t charge for that, and the tip jar is sitting right at the register.”
With two yarn shops within only a 4-mile radius, Gill and Brunck made a concerted effort to bring more knitters and crocheters in the community together at their store as much as possible. “We just set out to have it as a popular store, and build communities within the store. Our Wednesday night group has grown from about 6-19 people, and that’s open knitting and crocheting.”
And, speaking of crocheting, the Yarn Stop prides itself on not discriminating when it comes to crocheters, as do many shops. That, in itself, may be yet another key to their growing success. Gill said, “Crocheters are (also) part of the fiberarts world, and all the yarn in the store you can crochet with, so there’s really no reason to discriminate against them. And, we actually have crocheting experts on staff here.”
Gill and Brunck recently celebrated their shop’s first anniversary by hosting a reception highlighted with door prizes, special sales, Loyalty Program double points, and more. Plans for the coming year are in the making, but Gill said they’re not willing to talk about them yet. Stay tuned!
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 the Yarn Stop (25 S. Main, Clawson) at (248) 808-6630, or visit TheYarnStop.com.