Join us for another behind-the-scenes peek at an inspirational crafting retailer that we’ve had the pleasure to meet through Craftsy Connect. This week we were lucky to talk with Knitty City owner Pearl Chin, about the challenges and triumphs of owning a knitting shop in New York since 2006, as well as what makes her shop unique, and her great Young Designer series!
About 9 years ago, when I was surfing the internet for knitting help, I came across Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Review and Amy Singer’s Knitty. As I was checking out the forums, I realized that the community of knitters and crocheters was not unlike the community created by my parents when they had a neighborhood grocery store in Houston, Texas. That was my “Aha” moment - knowing that I could set up a physical place where people could meet and share what they love doing. New York City is the center of the knitting/crocheting universe, and I happen to live here!
What was the biggest challenge to getting started?
Besides money? My space was a shell, and the building was landmarked. Getting permits, and waiting for construction to get done took a year. Getting an awning for the store took over 2 years! I wanted my store to not look like a store. If I was going to be working 24/7, I wanted Knitty City to feel like a welcoming studio where my friends can come and relax among some seriously beautiful yarn. Creating an inviting atmosphere is fun, but can be challenging.
What makes your shop unique?
My store is unique because we try to know our customers, and we work hard to help them get the right patterns, materials, and instruction for their projects. Strong friendships have developed over the years at Knitty City.
How would you describe the style of materials and projects in your shop?
We have a wide-range of yarns, books, patterns, needles and accessories to accomodate our customers needs and price range. We have kid’s clubs; men’s knitting group; beginning, intermediate, and advanced knitters; fashionistas; crocheters; relatives knitting for babies and children. We try to be supportive of our customers by taking special orders or directing them to the best place to purchase.
What have you learned about your customers that you didn't expect?
I didn’t expect my customers to spend as much time in the store as they do! Some of our regulars come every day. (I usually try to get a couple of days off during the week). I always knew that knitters were friendly, but the generosity and the offers of help to others make me feel grateful. Is it just New York? No. NYC is diverse, by nature, and we see a good variety of cultures in our store. The language of knitting and crocheting transcends all cultures and differences. We also get a lot of tourists at Knitty City, and it’s fascinating to learn their stories.
How did you first hear about Craftsy Connect?
At the Long Beach TNNA show, I stopped by the Craftsy booth to see how we could work together. I knew about Craftsy from our customers, staff, teachers, Ravelry, and Facebook.
When you joined Craftsy Connect how were you hoping it would help you?
We like to offer our customers the very best. At the store, we have private, group, and special techniques classes, but there’s a limit to what can be taught. Craftsy has top-notch teachers, some who have taught at the store. Some of our staff has taken and enjoyed these classes. So we were directing customers to Craftsy already anyways. Encouraging people to take clases relieves us of the teaching burden. We can concentrate on getting the right material, and teaching one-on-one.
How is Craftsy Connect working for you?
I think it is working very well for us.We are posting about it on Facebook, in our newsletter, on our website, etc.
What do your customers like about the program?
I think our customers like the coupons. They also like being able to learn what they want when they want - on their own terms.
Do you have any tips for other retailers on how to get the most out of their Craftsy Connect sales?
Make sure every one of your customers know about Craftsy, and how and why you are supporting them.
What's the biggest challenge you face today?
The economy and internet sales.
Will you be doing anything new in your shop this year?
We typically give free knitting lessons in Bryant Park in the summer. We also give yarn to knitting groups for women in need. This year, I would like to encourage knitting classes in some of the public schools by offering free yarn to the children. Kids in other countries, girls and boys, learn how to knit, crochet and sew. Why can’t they do this here in America?
Can you tell us about your Young Designer series?
Once a month, we invite a new designer to come to the store, and explain their “process." This entails how they got started, what they do to keep learning and how they market their designs. They also talk about what types of things inspire them and, most often, they bring samples of their work to illustrate what and how they create. We find that other customers gain confidence in hearing these stories and some have even begun their own design business. Qualifier for young? Under 50.
Any advice for aspiring or current knitters?
Network with other, more advanced knitters and learn from them,. Take classes. Ask questions. Read and learn from Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker. Knit at least 15 minutes every day. Swatch, swatch, swatch. So much of knitting is practice. I would also advise learning about the materials – what makes a specific type of yarn suitable for a specific project. What needles are you most comfortable working with. Often people get discouraged when their project doesn’t turn out exactly the way they see it in a magazine or if it doesn’t fit them as well as they would like. That’s where networking with other experienced knitters is a huge help.
Share with us what you love about Knitty City!
Be sure not to miss our previously featured stores Shop Spotlight: CityCraft, Shop Spotlight: Quilting on the Square, Shop Spotlight: Sweet Home Quilt Co, and Shop Spotlight: Rosebud's Cottage. Come on back Wednesday, April 10th to discover another great local crafting retailer!
With Craftsy Connect, our new partnership program, you can purchase Craftsy classes through your local independent brick and mortar retailer and directly support them in doing so. Plus, you’ll get a coupon back to that shop to get your class supplies, so it’s a win-win for all! If you’re a shop owner or would like to see your local shop participate in Craftsy Connect, email connect(at)craftsy(dot)com.