Saturday, November 24, 2012

Birthdays, Bathrooms, and Anniversaries.

Last week was a flurry of activity at Yarnology. It seemed that every day something exciting was happening, something that required us to forgo our routine and celebrate.

            It all started on Wednesday, the 14th with Gaby’s birthday. Gaby is much more than just co-owner of the shop; she’s a friend, a teacher, and an ever-present voice of reason whether you need advice on knitting or life. Wanting to do something special for the occasion, Kelly, her business partner came up with a brilliant idea of what to give Gaby for a gift. For quite some time now, she’s been eyeing a certain pair of shoes that Kelly and many of our customers now own. You see, these shoes are kind of a big deal. Not only are they from the popular company Dansko, but they have a knitted pattern on them in bright fun colors. Every time another customer came in wearing their new Danskos, inspired by Kelly and her flashy knit shoes, Gaby would jokingly go into a jealous rage leaving no doubt in our minds that she wanted a pair for herself. The staff of Yarnology decided that if we all contributed a little bit of money, we’d have enough to buy them for her. I wasn’t actually present when she opened her gift, but I’m told that her excitement escalated to a happy dance around the store in her new shoes. I’m just happy we were able to be a part of making her birthday special.

            Birthday festivities were just a prelude to the gathering we would have the next day to celebrate the completion of Yarnology’s new, beautiful bathroom. Yes, that’s right we had a bathroom warming party. Ever since Yarnology moved to its new location in June, we’ve been anticipating the renovation of the basement where we planned to have a brand-new bathroom and kitchen area. The progress on that project, however, was much slower than we would have liked. Customers and staff alike had to resort to using the building’s original facilities which resembled a closet rather than a room. I never minded that much, except for the fact that the only sink was a large (and rather worn out) utility tub. So when the news came that things were good to go in our new and improved restroom Gaby and Kelly thought that we should share our excitement with everyone who would benefit from this reno.

We love to do this last minute at Yarnology, and we didn’t make an exception for our bathroom warming party. Just a couple hours before our guests were expected, Gaby, Kelly, and I were madly running around trying to put the finishing touches on our new lower level. Pictures were hung on walls, the floor was swept, cheese, crackers, and wine bottles were taken out and placed in our “kitchen” for our visitors to sample. The Thursday night regulars who sit, knit, and chat together were already there and quickly gave us their stamp of approval while munching my homemade oatmeal cookies. Soon others arrived to ooh and aah over the bright green painted walls and the funny sign that says “Knit or Get off the Pot!” (you’d think we’d be sophisticated at a yarn shop… ha!). My favorite part of our little shindig had to be the cocktail naming game that we challenged our guests with.  Gaby mixed a few things together and made a refreshing drink all her own, but it needed a name, one that related to our shop’s primary focus: yarn. Many suggestions were made, most of them silly, but my favorite would have to be a contribution from my coworker, Blandine: d2tog, or drink two together (for those of you who are non-knitters this may not appear very funny, but in knitting patterns there is an instruction to k2tog, or knit two stitches together; clever, no?). We wrapped up the evening on the couches of our “living room”, knitting and laughing, a common occurrence at Yarnology.

Saturday dawned and again we scrambled around the store, cleaning and putting everything in its place. We anticipated some big crowds due to the annual Art Walk around Winona, and we were not disappointed. The wonderful thing about the Art Walk, besides giving local artists and crafters a chance to showcase their material, is that people who don’t knit or crochet, who would never walk into a yarn store normally, come to check us out because we’re listed as a stop on the Walk. Then they realize that we have much more than just yarn. Our SmartWool socks were a huge success giving customers a chance to have quality wool socks without having to knit them. The lotions, purses, and bags we carry were also popular and I remember ringing up quite a few for crafters and non-crafters alike.

It was a great day for seeing friends and catching up with acquaintances as well. At any given time I could look around the store and see familiar faces talking and laughing, admiring handmade accessories, comparing schedules for their busy days, or giving opinions and advice about colors for a new knitting project. Shortly into the busy morning we were treated to an unexpected surprise in the form of former Yarnologist, Amanda. After moving home at the end of the summer, Amanda hasn’t had much of a chance to come visit her “family” at Yarnology. But without warning she walked through our back door ready to spend the day with us, and even take her place back behind the counter a few times. She is one of my best friends and having her back in the shop made an already good day great.

It just so happened that last Saturday was also Yarnology’s unofficial two year anniversary. The date didn’t quite line up, but two years ago, on the day of the Art Walk, Yarnology opened its doors for the first time. Not knowing what to expect, Gaby, Kelly, and a few family members bravely took on the crowds of people that inevitably showed up. I visited the shop for the first time in January, just a few weeks before I started working there, so I wasn’t an eye witness to this historic day, but I’m told the line of customers reached to the back of the store. To those of us who can’t picture Winona anymore without Yarnology, this comes as no surprise. But it must have been a shock to suddenly realize that this little local shop was a huge success and would continue to be for the next two years and on into the future. It’s hard to say how many people have visited, how many people we’ve met, talked to, connected with over the years, but I’ll say for certain that at least a few lives have been changed, mine included, because of this unique little business. And today, which happens to be Small Business Saturday, I encourage everyone to consider how important local businesses are to our communities. So please show your support to those of us whose lives would be significantly different if these places didn’t exist. They are much more than mere stores. They are our livelihood and, for me at least, our favorite place to be.

Thank you to everyone who made last weekend and the last two years special!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Knit the Vote

          Today, as everyone knows, was a very important day in America. It was a chance to experience democracy first hand; to see in effect what the men and women of the Revolution fought for. Early this morning I stepped out of the house, coffee in hand just in case I had to wait in line, to register and cast my ballot. The weather was cold, rainy, and thoroughly depressing, but my roommate Elizabeth and I didn’t mind. We wanted to get in and out before the rush. Though I voted in the 2008 election, I was still excited to be a part of the democratic process. It was very satisfying filling in that bubble and then putting my ballot in the counter. I wore my “I Voted” sticker all day at work and was happy to see most of our customers and other passersby proudly sporting red stickers on their jackets and shirts too.

            Though I won’t go into my political views (I have strong ones, but I don't want to offend anyone) I will say that this election makes me very nervous. I know the stakes are high, and I’ve been anxious all day to find out what the results will be. There are so many controversial and important issues on the line, and I just pray that this election will end in a way that’s best for the American people. My uneasiness over this whole process has not gone away throughout the day and it actually may have increased now that I’m home from work and watching CBS’s live coverage. Elizabeth is napping on the couch, preparing herself for a late night watching results and I’m listening intently while I type, catching the latest breaking news in respect to the election. Soon I’ll have to take out my knitting so I can relax and keep busy while waiting out the next few hours. I’m experiencing a strange combination of excitement, unease, and dread thinking through the possible outcomes. Maybe all of you are experiencing similar emotions, though I’m sure we don’t all share the same political views; at least we can rest assured that we did all we could to influence the result.

            Sitting here thinking about it, I really wouldn’t be surprised if I finished a record amount of knitting tonight. I will be furiously moving my needles either in frustration or excitement. Whichever way, this election will definitely result in personal productivity. :-) Good luck to everyone!