For the last nine years, my friend Gerri Bragdon has owned and operated Knit Knack, my local yarn store. Gerri is helpful, thoughtful, and willing to go the extra mile to teach even the very beginning knitter in clear, understandable language. She brought joy to her knitters, whether they be taking baby steps, or were world famous knitters. Her selection of yarns was fabulous, and she was never to busy to just sit and talk. Her coffee machine was going from open to close, and she made the BEST lattes in the land.
Sadly, all that is coming to an end. No more sitting and knitting. No more wonderful classes, or cruising the new yarns. No more getting together with other knitters to talk and laugh and drink coffee over your knitting. No more Charlie running around the shop and greeting visitors with a tail wag and a begged pat. For Knit Knack will be no more in the next two weeks. Another small business, murdered by the internet.
Or is it just the internet?
Think about it. You have a small business that you enjoy. Maybe it is a bookstore. Every time you go in, the owner is happy to help you find what you want. To let you browse the shelves, ask questions, sit and read. They are always friendly and helpful, and are happy to recommend little-known books or order in something special for you. Maybe there is a coffee machine and cozy chairs and couches to sit and simply relax. Then, along comes Amazon. Well, you can order straight from your computer on your own couch, and get great deals at the same time. But what have you lost? Wasn’t the companionship worth something? The friendship and relaxation, the meetings with other book lovers in the shelves?
In the case of my yarn shop, this isn’t the only loss of a great shop I have watched recently. There was a tiny quilt shop in Olde Town Arvada as well. When I was going through chemo the owner used to call and check up on me, and when I was feeling well enough to stop by, she would set me up with a comfy chair and stool for my feet and would run across the street for tea for us so we could sit and visit. Sadly, the same thing happened to her. She started out with a good customer base – but then, well, you know what happened. Loyal customers weren’t loyal. And that owner had to shut down as well, losing what she had dreamed of all her life. Her own little quilt shop.
I am just as guilty in a way of disloyalty. Since I lost a lot of my sight I have relied on Amazon and B&N rather than my local small book stores. Trying to read paper is simply too hard for me – the text runs together or fuzzes out and I can only handle a page or two before I have to put it down. So much for the hundreds of paperback and hardback books I have in this house. . . At least I have a good reason for not purchasing paper any longer. But my business alone wasn’t enough to keep the quilt shop in business, nor was it enough to keep Gerri up and running. Oh, there were still loyal customers, don’t get me wrong. We were completely torn up when the quilt shop went out of business. And one of the customers at Gerri’s was crying when I was in the shop. Like me, it killed her to see Gerri’s dream crumble to dust. But for the few of us loyal, way too many simply weren’t.
Of course, the yarn companies don’t help the situation. For example, Cascade Yarns, a very popular brand with a wide range of yarns, has hooked up with a company called Craftsy.com. They are selling their most popular yarns at a deep discount on the site. They also offer online video classes that you can purchase (often at steep discounts) and download to your computer to watch at any time. Of course, Gerri has had more than one person come into the shop with their knitting and pattern (purchased from Craftsy) and said that they had purchased the class, but didn’t understand what was the ‘teacher’ was doing, and could Gerri help figure out what was wrong with their knitting? And even though they didn’t spend a dime on the project at her shop, she still sat down with them and helped them figure it out. Because that is what a small business owner does – she/he helps. Then, of course, when Gerri had her 35% off going-out-of-business sale, everyone piled in, and went on and on about how they didn’t understand why she was closing down, and how could she do that to them? Never mind that, though some of those people spent a couple hundred dollars on yarn that day – they hadn’t been in the store once in five to seven Years! Well, DUH! Let’s see Craftsy or Walmart have people available to sit down with you and show you how to properly hold your needles or how a complicated stitch works . . .
Now, a shop that used to look like this:
Now looks like this:
And Charlie looks so sad. . .
No more watching Gerri check out her customers. So saaaaddd!
So. If you have a local you love, remember to support them, and tell all your friends to support them as well. We are soulless enough as a country without becoming nothing more than corporate fodder, slaves to the Walmart mentality! Yes, you will pay a bit more. But what you get back? What you get back is Priceless.