This is the second installment in the Fickle Knitter Design Local Yarn Shop Interview Series. Andrea Riddle, owner of The Yarn Club located in Virginia Beach, Virginia was kind enough to answer questions about what it’s like to be a yarn shop owner in the current economy.
Andrea and Michelle at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in 2012
I’ve met Andrea in person and taught at her wonderful shop. The Yarn Club is a delightfuly diverse shop chock full of knitters of all skill levels. When you walk in you are welcomed into the shop and set at ease by the women and men who knit their way through The Yarn Club’s marvelous yarn selection.
Andrea, what’s the best thing about having a yarn shop in Virginia Beach?
I get to do what I love every day, share it with good people, and teach what I love. Owning a yarn shop is the perfect marriage of business and art. I am an Artist with a Bachelor in Illustration and a small business owner. So this really works for me. I love shopping for yarn. This way I get to surround myself with color all day long. I also love the people I meet. My regular customers have quickly become close friends. I also love sharing our store and our city with the tourists who visit. We are a tourist community and the summers are filled with great folks who visit the beach and knit. I love sharing our local restaurants and giving visitors a taste of Virginia Beach life.
What is the most rewarding part of owning a yarn shop?
That is a really hard question! I love what I do and find it hard to call it “work”. I get the biggest thrill when a customer is able to master a new technique or when I can show them something that makes their knitting more professional; when someone gets that “Ah, ha!” moment. When I can steal a few minutes with a customer and change their knitting life with a simple trick or technique; that has to be the most rewarding thing about being a shop owner. I love when some else finds the passion of knitting and the yarn gets into their soul.
What is the most difficult part of being a yarn shop owner?
Not being able to buy all the yarn I want to. I wish I could hold an inventory that would fill a warehouse. My personal stash is huge, too. I just love yarn and want to own it all and bring it all to my customers. Self-control is definitely one of the hardest parts of this business.
Do you have previous experience as a small business owner?
Yes. I have always worked for myself. I worked as a freelance graphic designer in New York City after I graduated college. Then I met my husband and moved to Virginia. I could not find a job as an artist that paid near what I was earning in NY, so I started helping my husband with a small payphone business he had begun as a side job. We grew that business together for eight years into one of the largest private payphone companies in the Tidewater area. In 1997 we sold to a public company and entered into other diverse businesses. We dabbled in real estate and the stock market. I worked for a few small businesses as a bookkeeper, too. During this time my husband and I spent most of our time raising our two girls and being full time parents. We live in Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay and try to do our part to preserve the Bay. We began by planting thousands of oysters and clams. This hobby quickly grew into another business as we started to harvest and shed out soft shell crabs. This local delicacy is highly sought after in the springtime in Virginia. We harvested roughly 20,000 crabs and sold them to local restaurants and fish markets each season. I also worked in a LYS and loved every day I was there. I never imagined at that time that I would one day own a shop, but it was always great to be able to call a day playing with yarn “work”. The owner of that shop retired and I grew increasingly anxious about where to find the best yarns. My husband went back to school for his law degree and I needed to find a creative outlet that I could call my own. A year after his graduation, we built The Yarn Club. It’s not the oddest business I have built, but it may be the most fun!
How has knitting touched your life?
I learned how to knit about 10 years ago. That is pretty late in life for most knitters. Knitting has touched my life in many, many ways. First, I am never bored. I am the crazy lady who pulls out her knitting in a grocery store line or while stuck in traffic. I knit everywhere; at PTA meetings, at sporting events, while watching TV, with friends, you name it, I am knitting. Being a fidgety person, this craft keeps me sane! I have become much more patient and calm because I can knit.
Second, I really love the people I meet. Knitters are good people. We are generally happy and bond instantly with other knitters. It’s as if the string holds us together.
Last, the craft is tons of fun, frequently a challenge and ever expanding. I don’t think I could ever not knit!
Thank you Andrea for taking time in your busy schedule to participate in this interview! To my readers, please visit The Yarn Club online at www.yarnclubknits.com or in Virginia Beach and tell ’em the Fickle Knitter sent you!