As the Longmont Yarn Shoppe approaches its ninth anniversary in September, owner Gail Sundberg-Douse, reflects on the challenges and accomplishments of the craft store. When she looks back, Sundberg-Douse attributes her success to all the people who helped her along the way.
Before Sundberg-Douse opened the downtown yarn store at 454 Main St., she worked as a nurse for 24 years and started a fiber line. She found herself constantly knitting.
In 2008, her sister Sue Johnson purchased three pregnant alpacas and began a farm in Wellington called Wabi Sabi Farm. Sundberg-Douse helped her sister by founding the Wabi Sabi Farm Store and got the alpaca fleece processed into yarn. Sundberg-Douse and her parents would knit products including hats and scarves, and run a booth at alpaca shows.
During that same period, Sundberg-Douse was teaching knitting classes at the Longmont Recreation Center. In 2011, she co-founded Loops for Love, an initiative to make warm clothing for the local homeless population. For that project she and participants would make sweaters and hats at a Panera Bread.
That’s when she realized Longmont was in need of a yarn shop.
“I'd put in 24 years of nursing, and I was ready for a change,” Sundberg-Douse said. “I was loving helping my sister. I was loving helping people learn to knit at the rec center. I was loving helping kids learn to knit. So I'm like, I think this town needs a yarn store.”
Growing up in Longmont since the age of two, Sundberg-Douse was set on opening in downtown. She said the Longmont Downtown Development Authority helped her find her storefront. The Longmont Yarn Shoppe opened on Sept. 6, 2012 in the back end of the unit.
About three years ago, the store took over the entire unit. Today, the frontend of the store’s walls are filled with spools of colorful yarns. The back room has tables for craft classes. Though knitters are the largest customer base, crafters can find tools and fibers for other mediums including weaving, embroidery, crochet and punch needles.
Wabi Sabi Farm products are sold at the store along with numerous fiber product lines. The Longmont Yarn shop has several local products and yarn processed by independent dyers.
The pandemic forced the yarn store to adapt. Craft classes were taught through Zoom and the Longmont Yarn Shoppe launched an ecommerce site in April last year. But her staff of six and several instructors helped the shop make it through.
“One of the best things I've learned is that you can't do it all,” Sundberg-Douse said. “You have to have the right team in place to help you manage all the tasks.”
Sundberg-Douse is still embracing the online aspect of her business. The Longmont Yarn Shoppe launched the “Fiberside Chats” series during the pandemic, where prominent figures in the fiber art world are invited to lead a Zoom presentation. The event is in collaboration with 28 other yarn stores in the U.S. and on average sees 100 attendees, according to Cheryl Szydlo, a sales associate, class instructor and coordinator of the “Fiberside Chats.”
Before Szydlo got hired at the yarn store four years ago, she was a customer. Her favorite aspect of the job is working with people.
“I really just like interacting with people and helping them, and I really love helping solve people's knitting conundrums,” Szydlo said.
Like Szydlo, Mary Ann Ott was a customer before starting her position as a sales associate about six weeks ago. Ott is an avid knitter and enjoys helping customers find what they need.
Sundberg-Douse refers to customers as guests because she wants everyone to feel welcomed at her second home. She understands that knitting jargon and just knowing what tools to use can be intimidating to a beginner. There are classes for different skill levels for every fiber art medium sold in the store. Private lessons are also available.
“We have a lot of people that have come in here and really gone from not even sure how to hold knitting needles to very skilled and proficient knitters, and same thing with weaving and crochet,” Sundberg-Douse said.
The Longmont Yarn Shoppe is preparing for upcoming events including its annual participation in the Hot August Knits Yarn Crawl, an event from July 31 to August 14 where customers compete for prizes by visiting different yarn shops. There are five shops including the Longmont Yarn Shoppe, all located in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.
For the Longmont Yarn shoppe’s ninth anniversary, the Colorado-based dyer Yarn Baby is collaborating with the store to make a special yarn in four colorways.
Like how Sundberg-Douse’s mother taught her how to knit and she then taught her children, she hopes that customers carry the tradition through generations. She hopes the Longmont Yarn Shoppe has many anniversaries to follow.
“I think every town needs a hospital, a yarn store, a post office and a grocery store,” Sundberg-Douse. “I would hope that people that learn to knit here bring their grandkids or their kids here to learn to knit or crochet. That we become just part of the fabric of the community forever.”