The top two questions I get these days (and have been getting pretty much since early April): How is the shop doing? And how are YOU?
The brief responses: right now, the shop is still doing okay. I'm hanging in there.
But I'm not going to lie to you all. This is hard. Working to keep the shop open and even vaguely functional during the COVID-19 pandemic is so much harder than anything that I did to get the shop ready to open back in 2017.
I'm writing this post right now because we're getting these questions more and more as we see small businesses closing. Researchers at Harvard estimate that over 110,000 small businesses nationwide have closed since March 1. The in-person local yarn shop community in our area is already getting a little smaller, as Churchmouse Yarns & Teas (Bainbridge Island), Serial Knitters (Kirkland), and The Sock Peddlers (Lakewood) have all announced that they're closing their brick-and-mortar shops. And this combination of circumstances naturally makes people a little panicky about how their favorite spots are holding up. So here's the deal as of this moment:
Stilly River Yarns is extraordinarily lucky on many counts. Our shop exists in a location where commercial space is fairly affordable. Our shop space is *ahem* cozy, but we chose shop displays and fixtures that have made it easy to change the space to meet requirements on social distancing and discouraging people from lingering too long... plus we have what I refer to as our "warm-weather bonus room" (aka the porch) for brief help sessions and tutorials. I'm comfortable with technology, so it was not a huge stretch to get our online shop stocked with our most-requested items, nor to work with virtual shopping appointments on FaceTime, Instagram, and Zoom. We've managed to keep a sense of community going through those same online channels. We didn't get a bank loan for starting the shop, so we aren't burdened with those monthly payments. We have suppliers who pivoted quickly to make alternate arrangements so that we could continue to get customers the yarn they needed or wanted. And The Resident Engineer and I have been able to somewhat arrange our schedules to make sure that the Shop Kids don't run totally feral while we're both working. As long as we're not bleeding red ink by the end of the year, there's a really good chance that the shop will survive to see its fourth Shopiversary in 2021. You as a community have made it eminently clear that Stilly River Yarns is important to you, and you want to see us here and thriving at the end of the pandemic. I cannot fully explain with words how grateful I am for that, and it's made me cry more often than anything else during this weird time in history.
Me, personally? It's a little rougher going. Moments of fear have been tempered with waves of gratitude to know that our shop community is pulling for us. Frustration and anger show up more regularly for me than they did during non-pandemic life. I'm spinning huge hanks of yarn because it's a great coping strategy for my flavor of anxiety. On the flip side, I lose myself in shop tasks or fiber projects and realize that I'm doing that to avoid doing shop tasks I don't love or enjoy (hellooooooo, bookkeeping and taxes!). There are days where I just don't feel like coming into the shop, and days where even looking at yarn feels like a chore. Seeing the owners of Churchmouse and Serial Knitters make their announcements on the same day was a huge punch to the gut... because if they're making that call, how do we make it through this? It's overwhelming to consider the ramifications.
And yet, at the end of the day... we've made it to another day. We still don't have any idea of how much longer we're on this path, or what "normal" will look like from here on out, or so many other things. There's so much that is simply beyond our control. The best we can do is to continue doing what we excel at: offering amazing yarn (and fun project ideas), creating educational opportunities to you as lifelong learners, and supporting and building our community, even if there's not always as much yarn talk as usual.
I'm going to close with what has become a sort of mantra in my weekly Instagram Live broadcasts. It's silly, but I feel like it's getting increasingly important the longer this continues: Be well. Be excellent to others and kind to yourself. Get some rest (ideally, sleep). Eat something that sounds good to you - it doesn't have to BE good for you, it just has to sound good. (It could be greens. It could be chocolate. It could be green chocolate.) Stay hydrated. And get some crafting in, because crafting is good for us on so many levels. Stay healthy and safe, and we'll look forward to seeing you or hearing from you soon, in whatever form that may take.
Lindsey Spoor is the owner of Stilly River Yarns in Stanwood, WA.