Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thinking out loud.....(this is a want ad!)

As I think about moving the shop to Farmington MI (the new address is   23616 Farmington Rd) -- and it's a lot to think about -- the mind turns to staffing.  Our dear, dear Ellen cannot make the move with us.  She has a special-needs child, and she cannot be further away from home than about a half-hour.  On a bad day, Farmington can be 45 minutes from her home.  So we will be looking for good, good people, probably some part-timers.

But then you start thinking about yarn-shop staffing, and it's problematic, isn't it?   In the first place, you don't get rich working in a yarn shop.  Usually, though not always, the people who work in shops are people who are good, maybe even great knitters and crocheters.  And they're women -- though one of the best people I've ever encountered in a yarn store was male (in the Springwater cooperative in Alexandria, Virginia).  So you start with the downward pressure on wages that always accompanies women's labor, made worse by the association (it's knitting!) with domestic work, and you end up with low wages, often minimum wage combined with a nice yarn discount.  And then you add the fact that it's almost never full time, so you don't get benefits.  Finally, it's hard to avoid the hard fact that yarn shops are low-profit businesses.

But, still, it's a great way to spend time, isn't it?  So people do it anyway.  And then some bad things happen.  We have all gone into yarn shops where the people who work there are sitting around a table talking to one another, or to clients (read "old friends") in social knitting groups, and don't even acknowledge that you came in.  One of my friends, who is a great person undeniably not deserving of what she got, went into a shop and was told brusquely that the yarn she wanted wasn't in stock, but then she found it in stock without any trouble at all.  She left without buying, seriously annoyed.  I have been in shops where people didn't even lift their eyes from their knitting.  In Philadelphia, I actually fell down and nobody noticed.  BUT:  I have also been in shops where I was trailed like some kind of potential criminal -- and I even have a nice, gray-haired visage.  I have been lectured on basic knitting by people who had no idea whether I could knit or not, much less know what I was doing; it was incredibly patronizing.  I have been asked, somewhat incredibly, if I knew how to tell a knitting needle from a crochet hook -- again, from a perfect stranger.

So here is what I think:   it's difficult to find really good people.  But I have found three in my time as a yarn shop owner  So it's not impossible.  One thing that happens is that people are in a place for so long that they think of it as a second home (or maybe as a primary home, depending on conditions at the other one!).  They think of it as a place to talk with friends.  They stop thinking of it as a work place, as a place with a reputation to maintain, as a place where they are supposed to SELL without seeming to be ramming things down people's throats.  As a place where everyone should be welcomed, helped, but not tracked around the place.......a tough balance.  But a possible balance.

We will be looking for a few good people -- at least intermediate knitters and with luck also crocheters, personable, with open faces and open hearts, not cynical, non-smokers, not smelling of alcohol (as one woman did), with IMAGINATION and a certain love of color and style that I would be hard pressed to define.  I'll know it when I see it.  My place is not the usual kind of place -- I go fetch much of the yarn from festivals, and that's our PRIMARY reason for being -- cultivating a love of color, of the craft itself, of cutting loose rather than following instructions and living in terror of not doing it exactly right, etc.  So much depends on whether our staff can convey what sets us apart.  This is an interesting problem:  One woman found the hand-spun, hand-made yarns kind of embarrassing -- as if they were some kind of tic that the owner had that she wanted to apologize for.  That won't do either.  And there's always a bit of teaching, especially to beginners, and helping people with problems, even if they bought the stuff they are working with some place else.....(though we might charge).

If you know someone who fills the bill, or if you do, drop me a note at  You don't have to have worked in a wool shop.  But you do need to be interested in helping people learn about ancient crafts and prosper as artisans.  And you need to be comfortable selling stuff.   I think this is a better way to find people than want ads.        svb

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