The New Generation of Craft Stores in downtown St. Johnsbury.
by Amanda Kuhnert
If a white-haired grandmotherly type comes to mind when you imagine your typical knitter, think again. Over 40 percent of crafters today are millennials (ages 18-34), and 36 percent are 35 to 54 years old, according to Mark Hill, CEO of the Association for Creative Industries, in an article on Forbes.com. And more than 20 percent of the knitting market exists here in New England.
These are the statistics that convinced Misty Colby, owner of The Yarn Bank in downtown St. Johnsbury, that she had a viable business idea. “Misty’s angle is to provide knowledgeable service and a strong product line to a segment of a local hobby market that her research tells her is growing,” explained Ross Hart, her business advisor at the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC).
Hart helped Colby step through the initial business start-up process, from knowing what to expect when filling out bank applications to coming up with cash-flow projections and writing a business plan. “Misty was a great client, as she is passionate about what she does, knows her industry and her local market well, has business savvy, and did everything she was asked to do with near perfection,” Hart said.
A unique business in a unique space
The Yarn Bank is located inside a historic building that served as a bank for many years, hence the store’s creative name. A large vault, with its beautiful hand-carved trim, stands at the rear of the store. But that’s the only vestige of the building’s commercial past.
Colby gave the tired space a complete makeover, creating a bright, inviting spot for knitters to gather, exchange ideas, and find unique products. The Yarn Bank offers your standard acrylic yarns, supplies, and accessories, as well as higher-end offerings, such as silk, mohair, and cashmere blends. The store also carries a selection of locally produced yarns.
Customers come for the experience, as much as for the products. At any point in the day, you’ll find knitters sitting at large wooden tables, working on projects and chatting with neighbors. Colby, herself, is a lifelong crafter, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with customers. She offers a range of art and craft classes, from “Knitting Boot Camp” to “Make Your Own Polymer Clay Charms.”
“The VtSBDC was exactly what I needed to start my business,” Colby said. “Their guidance helped me to put all of my ideas and passion for my business into action. I’ve never been happier with my profession.”