Why Small Businesses Matter
Shop small, do big things for your community
Why Small Businesses Matter puts a spotlight on the local merchants who donate their time, talent, goods, and services for the betterment of our community. The shop local movement spreads virally as local businesses who are “tagged” have the opportunity to share their story!
You're IT Westport Yarns!
Four questions with Beth Schaefer, owner of Westport Yarns.
Why did you start your business?
I ‘continued’ the business because I thought it was very important to have a small, woman-owned business in Westport. Knitting is important to people's mental health (particularly through the pandemic) and the store also offers a sense of community and continual learning of new skills. There are so many large, franchised stores in every city you go to -- I just thought it was important to keep the flavor of Westport as having some very tiny unique community-oriented businesses.
Westport Yarns had been in existence five years before I purchased it (it was formerly known as Knitting Central). I made the rather impulsive decision to buy the store as I was retiring from the investment industry. I had just learned to knit about 2 years before my purchase. I originally started knitting because I found it was very good for calming down my brain when I had to listen to (boring financial analyst) conference calls and also I needed a hobby to keep me busy in the winter when I couldn't garden. It was never my lifelong dream to open a knitting store, but there were several people working who wanted to keep their jobs and were kind enough to teach me how to run a yarn store. At 11 years after that point and I might have almost gotten the hang of it!
The staff that works with me is absolutely essential to the business: Katie, who is our store manager, with children in grammar school, high school, and college, is responsible for our social media website and newsletter. Next, Julie who was formerly in advertising and is a professional artist and a fantastic knitter. Finally, Sandy joined us a few years ago after running a yarn store knitting store in Florida, but she decided to come up north (go figure!) she's a terrific addition to the staff. All four of us spend lots of time engaging with customers helping them with projects and teaching them new skills.
What is our best-selling product or service?
Yarn is our best-selling product. We sell yarn, accessories for yarn, and books associated with the crafts of knitting and crocheting and many other small fiber arts. We also run a number of individual knitting groups (social and educational) in the store and we offer private knitting lessons for those of all ages.
How many local businesses do you use to support your business products and services and can you name them?
There are a number of other small businesses whose products we sell in our store. The most recent that we've developed a relationship with is Claire at Windover Farms in Newtown CT. Claire and her husband own a small farm and do everything from raising sheep to processing, spinning, and dyeing yarn then they sell it locally. We also buy hand-dyed yarn from a number of ‘Indy’ yarn dyers and pattern writers. A couple of these are Denise Hebner, Samantha Guerin, to name a few. More recently we found a local candle maker whose products can be tailored to knitting or crocheting and we've been very successful selling her beautiful candles over the last few months.
Have you re-imagined your small business?
The answer to this is a giant yes! A little over a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic presented itself we were primarily bricks and mortar store with a small presence selling some products online. Back in March 2020 when we were told we had to close the store to customers, Julie and I continued to work in the store and do curbside pick-up and Katie, our store manager, put our entire store online - this was an enormous project but helped us get through the pandemic as well as we could have imagined.
The other way we have reimagined our business in more of an ongoing way is to appeal to the new crop of knitters who tend to follow new trends in knitting and crocheting on Instagram, blogs, and other social media sites. Katie has spearheaded this project and has brought us into some very interesting new yarns, new designers, and cutting-edge projects. Of course, the other side of this is holding on to our very loyal customer base of the last 10 years who tend to be grandmothers knitting for first-time grandchildren, moms meeting for children, and children knitting for fun.
HamletHub thanks Fairfield County Bank for making our Why Small Businesses Matter series possible!