Tradition blended with technology and outstanding customer service is keeping the Yarn Mart as Little Rock’s outstanding source for yarn and materials for fiber arts.
The Yarn Mart has been a fixture in the Heights neighborhood since the 1960’s. Unfortunately, earlier this year it looked like the only locally owned yarn store in Little Rock might be closing. The owner, who had purchased the store seven years earlier, was facing the challenges of running the business on her own.
Meanwhile, Heather Zbinden was looking for a way to combine her creativity skills with her small business sense. A historian by training, Heather was doing research at museums in Central Arkansas. Looking for a change, she wanted to be able to express herself creatively, “something I could be passionate about,” she said. Heather turned to the Arkansas Chapter of the SCORE Business Counselors for advice on possibly purchasing the Yarn Mart. SCORE, one of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) resource partners, is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Heather met with Jim Sadler and Bob Smith of SCORE’s Little Rock Chapter. “SCORE was fantastic,” she said. Heather formed the new store’s ownership with Cindy Hedges, the store’s previous owner, and Amy Sixbey, a stay-at-home mom with a talent for yarn crafts. The new owners completed the business reorganization in early 2012.
The Yarn Mart is a locally owned store. And it is the locally owned stores that stabilize neighborhoods, and provide gathering places for the people who live in these neighborhoods. You can buy yarn at discount stores, craft stores, and big box stores. When you purchase your yarn and needles at the Yarn Mart, you receive personalized instruction and assistance. You also become part of the Yarn Mart community. Customers are invited to bring their needles and yarn and sit around the table at the front of the store. “Knitting is therapy,” notes Heather, “and conversation is therapy.
Heather attributes the business’ success to its high quality of customer service, providing quality yarns, and using the new forms of media. The Yarn Mart is active on Facebook and Twitter, and sends e-mail newsletters to people interested in the store and yarn crafts. The store also maintains a presence on Ravelry, an online resource for people who are interested in the yarn arts. Store activities include classes, informal knitting sessions around the store’s table, and special events. One popular event is Yarn Bombing where staff and customers decorate the trees in front of the store with brightly colored knitted and crocheted swatches.
The Yarn Mart is active in the community. The store is a member of the Heights Merchants Association. The Yarn Mart also supports Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s “Knitting for Noggins,” and the UAMS Rockefeller Cancer Institute‘s Chemo Hat project.\
Visit the Yarn Mart online at: http://www.theyarnmart.com/