Arts and crafts stores persevere despite pandemic and competition – Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO – Faced with the economic downturn and uncertainty, long-standing local arts and crafts stores in Chico have had to get creative to overcome shortages and closures in 2020.

Online ordering helped save Heartstrings Yarn Studio on the Esplanade, carrying supplies for sewing artisans through 2020, owner Joanne Wilson said.

“When we were closed for those first six weeks, our doors were locked and staff were on leave – but I was working here pretty much 7 days a week,” she said, in order to fill orders. and update the website.

  • A former social space is empty Tuesday at Heartstrings Yarn Studio in Chico. (Natalie Hanson — Enterprise-Record)

  • Chandra Perry spins the yarn into a ball Tuesday at Heartstrings Yarn Studio in Chico. (Natalie Hanson — Enterprise-Record)

Still, she said, “Not knowing was probably the biggest challenge.

“There was a lack of communication for small businesses. No one informed us, well here’s what you need to do.

Wilson often called Butte County Public Health and the Chico Chamber of Commerce for “a lot of learning along the way.”

“We lost 34% of our business,” she said. “A lot of people were just working on their stash. Many customers were not comfortable learning how to order online.

But a big surprise was brought by online orders in many other areas with several store closures.

“A lot of factories around the world had furloughs,” she said. “Stores in the United States were not receiving their inventory.”

“In the beginning, we were sending orders to New York every day,” Wilson added. Soon other knitters from other countries discovered her shop and she found herself filling orders from all over the world.

This is partly due to its business model, which maintains more inventory than the average yarn store. She said she was able to make adjustments to product orders and sell more inventory as the supply chain caused shortages and people from different countries sought out specific yarns.

“I have such a huge inventory that people were finding what they needed. … The first time in 16 years that having a huge inventory worked to my advantage,” she laughed.

“Our web sales have almost doubled as a percentage of total sales,” she added.

“It’s therapy for a lot of people.”

People can come back for advice or help with projects, but there’s still no class or weekly social knitting hour.

“We encourage people to come every day and get help. We will sit for five or 10 minutes,” she said.

But, “There’s a certain encouragement that people get from seeing other people’s projects.”

Customers have remained loyal. Many regular customers can enter each week, although people cannot cluster or stay in the store for too long.

Wilson said she intentionally works around local chain stores such as Michael’s with her own inventory. Although she cannot buy yarn wholesale and have the same price, she does hold inventory that cannot be purchased at these stores.

Ellis Arts and Engineering Supplies – which has stores in Chico and Redding – did not have the capacity to provide online orders and had to accommodate customers in other ways, said store manager Klint Kettell.

  • The shelves are full Tuesday at Ellis Art and Engineering Supplies in Chico. (Natalie Hanson — Enterprise-Record)

  • Employee Jenny Herman works Tuesday at Ellis Art and Engineering Supplies in Chico. (Natalie Hanson — Enterprise-Record)

“We did curbside pickup, but we don’t really do online ordering,” Kettell said. He added that the store would accept orders by email and otherwise “make things available in our various stores, depending on which stores are open.”

Business has been “closed, mainly because the students are not there”, he said.

“But our clientele has remained loyal.” Butte College regulars as well as Chico State students continue to email the store for supplies, often from out of town.

Yarn Basket, located in a cozy house near the Esplanade, has reduced its opening hours from Wednesday to Saturday and ended social craft hours and classes.

Owner Bruce Edwards said they have done curbside pickup and other options and intend to have classes again when possible.

“We are a former Chico company, this is our 42nd year,” he said. “But we’re pretty well known on the west coast.

“Touch commerce… (buyers) almost need to feel it before they care. But I also do orders online, but mostly from people who have since moved to San Antonio or New York or across the country.

“They don’t forget us, that’s good.”

Edwards spoke of his customers who were set on fire by the campfire and still remember the store. No specific COVID-19 relief has come from stores like his, he said. The store relies heavily on local customer loyalty with premium yarns.

“We survived, but like a lot of businesses in Chico, we’re kind of hanging on, hoping for better times,” Edwards said.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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