Woman’s knack for knitting spins into business
By Michelle L. QUinn Post-Tribune correspondent February 16, 2013 11:58PM
Joyce Kraly knits a sweater during the yarn knitting night held at "Spiinnin Yarns" in Griffith on Tuesday January 29, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
For more information on Spinnin’ Yarns, 145 N. Griffith Blvd., call 924-7333 or log on to www.spinninyarns.com or its Ravelry shop at www.ravelry.com/shops/spinnin-yarns. Its hours are noon to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Updated: March 18, 2013 6:11AM
GRIFFITH — Jamie Gunnink learned the hard way that the difference between a knitting hobbyist and a yarn shop is often almost indistinguishable.
Gunnink, who owns Northwest Indiana’s only artisan yarn shop, Spinnin’ Yarns, started her business at home and would frequently order special yarn for her customers. But because knitters and crocheters, once bitten by that hobby bug, tend to want to try a little of everything and therefore can end up with huge collections of material, those same vendors were wary and, for a time, refused her as a business customer.
“I had to prove to the vendors that I was an actual business and not someone with a large yarn fetish,” Gunnink of Calumet Township said. “So after taking pictures and providing proof that I was an actual business, one or two vendors finally relented and set up a business account with me.”
That was in 2010. Since then, Gunnink has expanded her physical space twice — it’s currently located in the former Blythe’s Bait and Tackle shop downtown — and more than doubled her revenue, all because once knitting is in the blood, it’s in there.
Gunnink was a reluctant leader for the craft at first. After the area’s only knit shop, Stitch By Stitch in Munster, closed in 2007, a group of women would meet at Borders to knit. The lack of having a shop where they could get high-quality yarns was often discussed.
“We would bemoan the lack of a local yarn shop because you would have to drive more than an hour — either to Valparaiso, the south side of Chicago or as far as Lafayette — to get good yarn,” Gunnink said. “Well, most of the ladies I grew up with learned to knit with yarn from Kmart or Ben Franklin, so when we would get these magazines and see these projects, they would ask where do you get these beautiful yarns?”
Since Gunnink knew how to procure the good stuff, she seemed like the perfect person of the group to open a shop. She, however, wasn’t convinced.
“I said, ‘Yeah, why me?’ ” she said. “They said that I had the talent, and I was looking for a new venture, anyway, so with a little bit of seed money from my husband and money I made as a seamstress, I opened up a business in my house.”
They started to come, and pretty soon, she had so much yarn that it nearly took over, so in December 2010, she set up shop in a little storefront on Griffith Boulevard. At that point, she decided she wanted more vendors, so shortly after the move, she attended an international knitting conference in Columbus, Ohio.
This time, she was prepared.
“I had all my paperwork, along with applications to each of the vendors, filled out and put into packets. And then I walked up to the highest-level manager at each vendor and said, ‘I’m growing, and I want to sell your product. Why won’t you sell them to me?” she said. “They would tell me to fill out an application, so when I showed them I already had the applications filled out along with everything else, they were a little freaked out, but my iniative convinced them.
“It wasn’t difficult at all after that (to add new vendors).”
With more vendors came the need for more space, so Gunnink moved a second time, this time to the new building. She had entertained the idea of moving out to U.S. 30 and U.S. 41, but the bait and tackle shop was a great space, complete with hooks already in the walls for displays. She now has customers from Beecher, Ill. To the south side of Chicago and all places in between.
If there was any resistance to selling yarn downtown in the beginning, it seems to have dissipated.
“I’d gone into the Town Hall to renew my business license with an address change, and I had people almost panicked that I was leaving,” she said. “They were relieved I was staying.”
Denise Lower of Calumet Township doesn’t know what she’d do without Spinnin’ Yarns. A lifelong knitter, she joined Gunnink’s Monday and Tuesday night knitting groups and is glad to be among her people.
“I found people who speak the same language,” Lower said. “Some of the yarns are pricy, sure, but there really is such a difference in the way things lay. Plus it’s really nice to go in there and feel the yarn, squish it and pet it.”