DocKnits, on the shores of Lake Huron, is a cheerful, friendly local yarn store for the beach community of Port Elgin in southern Ontario — a great place to take a vacation and buy some vacation yarn! Owner Dr. Sue Gundrum shares her LYS story with us today.
Happy Fuzzy Yarn: What did you do before you opened a yarn store?
Sue: I am a family physician who has loved knitting and crocheting since I was a child. My grandmothers taught me the craft! I worked in a yarn store when I was a teenager in the 80s when fair isle and chunky sweaters were popular. The store I worked in was very fashion forward (for our small city of Owen Sound) and carried “exotic” lines like Phildar and Annie Blatt…unheard of in the world of Paton’s 100% acrylic!
HFY: How did you get into the business of owning a yarn store?
Sue: I have three growing sons and a husband who is a dentist and coaches A LOT of volleyball. As the boys have grown, I started to find myself alone more and more. My immediate circle of friends do not do anything creative (we bond over wine!) and I was missing women who love fiber. So, as a “prevent the empty nest syndrome” project, I decided to open a store. I still work full-time as a physician, but sneak into the store on weekends, evenings, and my day off. I have two wonderful women, Peggy and Jeffi, who basically run the store. I do orders, pay the bills, fondle the yarn, and knit samples for the store. I love coming to Friday night “open knit” and try to come to Thursday afternoon “open knit” if I don’t have to do my other (not so much fun) job. As a result, we have cultivated a real community at DocKnits and they feed me emotionally and spiritually, as much as I feed them with yarn! I think this is the best part of owning a yarn store.
HFY: You created a community! That’s great! What is the hardest part about running a yarn store?
Sue: The most difficult part of running the store is not being able to be here enough! It takes hours and hours to keep the store up and running, but it is such a passion that I really don’t mind the extra time. I wish we could knit samples faster because people really need to see the end product, but there are only 2 or 3 of us who knit for the store (sample knitters are welcome anytime!). The money is always a stressor as well as I seem to have to buy every yarn, in every colour. I don’t have a very good filter. However, our clientele is growing and we may supplement our “off season” with some online shopping.
HFY: How do you choose which yarns to carry? And then how do you choose which colours?
Sue: I try really hard to get a good mix of yarns in different weights, colours, and price ranges. I use to buy every colour of the rainbow in every yarn, but now I focus more on specific colours. Despite the fact that I love golds, greens, and oranges, not too many people can rock those colours. I love buying North American and home grown yarns, and shun anything from countries that abuse human rights and provide cheap products. I was so proud of Rowan for discontinuing their angora line when they discovered the rabbits were terribly abused. I really love natural fibers. I just sourced out a local sheep farmer who has about 2000 oz of bare 2 ply yarn from his sheep, languishing in his attic! I will have this dyed for the store.
HFY: Good for Rowan! Bunnies should be pampered and loved! What is the strangest thing that’s happened at your store?
Sue: I was in the basement stocking yarn and heard an awful sound upstairs. It sounded like a very loud fire alarm. I ran upstairs to find a very embarrassed lady, paying at the cash register. Her husband was parked outside and STARTED THE CAR ALARM because she was taking too long. I would like to have pelted his car with a paintball gun, but didn’t have one handy and thought better of it. The poor thing…. I should have given her a big discount for having a spouse like that. She admitted that he was SERIOUS and not joking. How sad!
HFY: How awful! What is the most popular Happy Fuzzy Yarn colourway with your customers?
Sue: Undulatory and Petrified Forest (my personal fave) have sold well. We just don’t have any other colourways like Happy Fuzzy Yarn’s in our store. They are so unique and appealing. We have a large tourist base from May until October as we live on the beaches of beautiful Lake Huron and there was a lot of ooohing and ahhing over the yarn last year!
Thank you for taking the time to share your story and your shop with us, Sue!