Small Business in 2020

The hardest part of this current situation is not letting people into the store. I’ve disappointed a lot of people at the door, and last week got caught breaking my own rules in the worst way, and it’s left me with an uncomfortable feeling all week.

As much as I’m grateful to have the kind of business that can be recreated online (enough to survive), I dislike it passionately. An online business was not part of my plan, and especially for a fibre arts supply store where texture and colour mean everything to the customer. The in-person sensory contact and community space have always been the driving force of this shop, and Covid has changed all of that. It’s been hard for me to adjust all of this in my head and adapt at the same time.

I’m not good at saying no. I’m easily persuaded, to a fault sometimes. I always want to be able to help. Standing in the doorway of this beautiful shop saying “no, sorry, I can’t let you in” makes me feel awful, frustrated, sad, defeated… all of it.

It seems so simple, a quick pop in, grab something, go. That would be fine (maybe?) once, but being a retail outlet – who do I allow to be that maybe once? If I let one in how do I not let in another?

Then I’m in a situation where I’ve had too much contact with too many different people for my comfort zone.

I really don’t think people grasp the seriousness of living with a deep-seeded infection. I’m not afraid of dying from Covid, I’m afraid of living with it. I already have been living with an infection that stumps doctors and has caused an array of confusing symptoms, most of which untreatable. Eleven long, frustrating years I’ve lived with this, in pain, with constantly evolving symptoms clearly caused by inflammation that can’t seem to be controlled. Inflammation, y’know, like what Covid causes. I’d rather close the shop and lose everything than catch another inflammatory infection.

My need to limit the contact around the shop is serious.

It’s tough right now because the temperature is dropping, we don’t have the enclosed entrance ready – and to be honest, I’m not sure right now how I will operate with it when we do. Initially it will just be a warm place to grab your curb side pick up.

Rising case numbers, a testing fiasco, and winter approaching are all reasons to take a step back. There is a dangerous lean in Thunder Bay toward believing that because our numbers are low that it is somehow safer here. *Not for the immune compromised* – that way of thinking is a privileged perspective of survival of the fittest, with an added “may the odds forever be in your favour.” It’s truly heartless. Sadly some people just can’t understand without experience.

This region has a terrible way of saying that “there was only one death, and he already had cancer”… *only*… and I have to wonder how many of those people saying that would say that to his family? One of my dearest customers and friends has a daughter who has a history with cancer which resulted in a heart transplant; a daughter the same age as my daughter. Would those people say the same if it was “only” her?

Covid has really brought out a strange sacrificial allowance among some people. It’s something that won’t be tolerated in this inclusive community shop. I believe in protecting those who are most at risk, and putting strict limits on those who act fearlessly.

The shop isn’t wildly busy, it’s not more than I can handle, and if I do need help around the shop I have great people to call; the staff/instructors, and volunteers haven’t gone anywhere. These wonderful ladies and I have Zoomed our way through this and find our ways to connect. We enjoyed a great sidewalk reunion last week with Ashley, Katie and Eleanor, Dana, and the fab Heliina; Tiffany stopped by later in the day. I know Denyse and Kathy are out there (*waves*).

What is hard for me right now is keeping up with messages, and trying to get my communications out there. None of that is difficult to do – it’s just finding the time to do it. Finding that time with my head in the right place (which, frankly, has been challenging in itself lately) is additionally difficult.

Working parents do require time, time that daycare and school would allow, and without it Rohan and I are both feeling our focus is torn. We’ve switched from online to home schooling and it’s already helping us find a better balance, but it’s still not easy.

(And we just have one little one with two of us! For those who are single parents [which I was for 11 years], or any with multiple children I understand the impossible, exhausting situation and applaud you.)

Applying for grants and business financial assistance (none of which have come through …yet?) is also time and emotion consuming. I really loathe doing that stuff, it makes me whiney. It’s also not necessarily difficult, but dealing with whiney me is. Me dealing with whiney me is difficult, so I’m sure Rohan agrees with a big 🙄.

None of this has anything to do with wool and yarn. None of it gives me time or energy to be creative, or focus on the “yarn shop” aspect of owning a small business. It’s all business-ey stuff, tech work, email overload, computer/phone work, …all the stuff I thought I would tolerate in exchange for the creative outlet the shop provides.

Without the people, and creative outlet I’m left feeling rather unenthusiastic about my daily tasks, and I think it shows. Thankfully I know I’m not alone, I know lots of people are feeling the gravity of changes to their daily life. None of it is easy to navigate, but at least we can remind ourselves we’re not alone.

I’ll end this long winded ramble on a positive note, saying that I’m determined to keep the shop evolving through this, with the end goal of being able to safely gather together again, shop in person, touch, talk, laugh, and inspire each other. And hugs.

If we take care of each other we’ll get there.

Thank you for all the continued kind messages and support!

Making of a Wool Shop: The Children’s Play Area

This area of the shop has evolved into a space of its own.

I knew the wall gets too much sun for yarn storage, so my first thought when I was planning the space was that it would be the community space. The wall did scream for a fireplace, and I loved the idea of cozy fireside seating by windows. We in the north have to source as much light and heat at possible!

It IS a cozy seating area beside a window and a fireplace, but it has become more of a children’s playroom than a yarn lovers gathering space. Stitchers do sit by the fire occasionally, but we usually squeeze around the three tables even if there’s too many of us. 😀 (which is so fun!)

The area around the fireplace grew into a wonderful play area for kids. The little table originally had a glass top and I had plans to fill it with decorative wool displays, but before I could put the glass back after painting it somehow filled with Oliver’s toys.

I’m often thanked for creating the space, but really it created itself. Kids now enjoy coming to the wool shop, and moms, dads, and grandparents appreciate the distraction while they shop. Sometimes kids have to be dragged out kicking and screaming when it’s time to go. :S

There’s a lot of weird stuff to pique the imagination: a mounted unicorn head (custom made by the beautifully talented @mommycansew), a monster garland made by @camphappyheart and me, melting snowmen, a toy alien by @sewwhimsicalbykatie, little felted creatures, crochet Oliver in a pumpkin, sheep and alpaca toys, and of course Shaun the Sheep on the smart tv.

This area isn’t what I originally planned but I couldn’t be happier with what it has become. I love that kids enjoy coming to the shop, and that their guardians feel a little less stress about taking littles out shopping. I know the juggle well.

My hope for a community creative space is constantly both affirming my intention and evolving on its own. It’s a great thing to watch.

Thank you all for making the shop what it is today!

Shop Update

If you were lucky enough to be in my shop a few Saturdays ago when my pipes froze and my bathroom exploded, you might have been even luckier to be one of the ones running to the back to offer help… at which point you would have learned that shop walls hide some horrific messes. For months the space outside the bathroom has served as my recycling pile area (imagine lots of boxes), furniture waiting to be painted area, tool storage area, photography area, boxes of bags area, my family’s kitchen, and my closet.

On my list of a million things to do this week, tidying this area was important.

There were three pieces of furniture to paint and add to the shop: my mother’s table, a clock which was donated to the store, and the base of one of the hutches – the top of which is in use housing the needles, it is on top of a dresser rather than its base because the dresser offers better storage for …more needles.

The base is now beside the checkout counter to gives me some extra storage for bags (Adrienne😂) and shop operations stuff. Now called my little blue sideboard, it is my favourite piece in the shop. (Still needs to be hinged, clearly..)

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ck was donated by some new friends, and I'm not sure how much if its story they would want to share. I think it's safe to say the clock was deeply appreciated by its original owner, but for complicated reasons it hasn't seen love (or the light of day) for years. It is the hope that the clock will find a new life in the shop. I think it already has.

My mother’s table has been in my sunroom for a few years serving as my workshop table. With its leaf it seats six, but Not comfortably. Without the leaf it transforms into an adorable pedestal table, and that is how I’ll use it. It was going to be painted white, and the first coat went on white – in fact the base already had its second coat when I decided to go at it with the blue paint, and I love it. Blue round table it is. We’ll use the round table near the entrance to the shop for a few purposes. I’ve noticed people need more space to put wool down and look at colours, compare, or match. This will be our table for that.

There has been some organisation accomplished this week, but still a lot to go. I’ll be moving on to plan B for the main shelving unit, so please be patient while I make the arrangements. There is no one more eager to see the shelves in place than me.

As for wool…

I’ve been busy coordinating the workshop schedule, and hope to post an updated list to the blog later this weekend. Upcoming classes include: beginner knitting, knit lace making, sock knitting, (hopefully knit fiddlehead mittens), crochet amigurumi cacti, crochet amigurumi mice, needle felt sculpture: chickadees, needle felt sculpture: valentine heart garland, needle felt sculpture: Easter eggs with simple embroidery embellishment.

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orkshops in planning include yoga for stitchers and knitting with an energy healer. (I'm really intrigued by these two!)

Thank you, everyone, for your patience as everything falls into place.