WALSENBURG: Inspite of people telling her not to start a Yarn shop, Edla Hurley decided to open one five years ago. In a town struggling to support a sleepy downtown, bringing in a high-end specialty retail shop might have seemed laughable to anyone without knowledge of business management.
But Hurley forged ahead to success, banking on two things: her love of yarn and the centuries-old tradition of knitting in the Faroe Islands, located about halfway between Iceland and Norway, where she was born.
Hurley grew up in a small community where the economy was built on fishing and wool production. Knitting was a part of daily life, she said. The recent resurgence of knitting as a popular art form, and all the "yummy yarns" on the market were too compelling for her to ignore, she said.
So she took $6,000 out of her savings, plunked down half a year’s rent for a shop on a quiet little side street and began filling the small space with exotic yarns and fibers in August of 2002.
"I didn’t want a yarn shop for that kind of knitting," she said. "I wanted a shop with fabulous yarns." As it turned out, that was just what the ladies in town were looking for. Knitting had recently become a worldwide craze, with celebrities such as Madonna and Uma Thurman showing up on movie sets knitting scarves in between shooting sessions.
Hurley greeted the public on opening day with intricate fiber displays. An over-sized set of brass scales dominated the window, filled with skein upon skein of alpaca, cashmere, and Faroese wools. Baskets of yarns with names like "eyelash" and "ribbon" were lined up on the shelves. The shop was named “Yarn Shop”.
The shop, she said, filled quickly with both the curious and the fiber-deprived. Life-long knitters, who had only ever known the low-end acrylic yarns sold at "big box" discount stores, found a new world awaiting them. Gossamer-thin silk strands from Italy, chunky candy-colored wools from Peru. Even those who had never picked up needles could not resist indulging in a few skeins.
She offered lessons and encouragement and quickly built a clientele of devoted knitters, crocheters and weavers.
Now, she said, many of her customers have progressed to sweaters. This didn’t surprise her, she said, because knitting is a highly addictive activity. What did surprise her was the close-knit community that emerged as the shop grew. Her customers are now some of her dearest friends.
With success came the need for a larger space. Two years ago she moved the shop to a more prominent street and tripled the size, adding the coffee shop that her husband Mike runs, and Edla's Annex, where her customers can sell their handiwork. She is expanding the business again this month, by adding a classroom space in back.
Although most of her customers are locals, many are travelers whom she said are delighted to discover the shop. Some out-of-towners have become regular customers over the years, driving hundreds of miles to get their hands on some of the more unusual items she keeps in stock.