Yarnbyrds Putting the Yarn Shop on Wheels

Grab your knitting needles! Bundles and bundles of American-made yarns will soon grace the shelves above as yarn is the latest niche to get the mobile retail treatment with Columbus’ own Yarnbyrds getting ready to roll later this summer.

Inspired by a truck from Texas, Owner Robin Richey’s Yarnbyrds joins just a handful of yarn trucks inspiring knitters across the U.S. and Canada. It’s the first entrepreneurial venture for Richey who has turned to fellow trucks, local yarn shops and leveraged resources like the SBDC and SCORE to get things up and running.

Yarnbyrds already has a slew of events lined up for its inaugural season, hitting local gatherings and industry extravaganzas. Yarnies, keep reading for details on the plethora of U.S.-made yarns that will be on-board (there’s even a line named after super heroes!). Also, find out why Richey opted for ‘Birdie’ (her name for the truck) over brick-and-mortar.

“Knit on!” Richey says. yarnbyrds2

[M] Tell me a little bit about your background and how it led to Yarnbyrds.

I have a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. I have been employed with a Columbus utility company for over 25 years.

Like most others, I learned the basics of knitting as a child from my mother and dabbled in it off and on throughout the years. I had some friends who were avid knitters and they inspired me to pick up the needles again about five years ago. I developed quite the passion for it, and since then I’ve not been able to put them down. If I’m sitting, I’m knitting!

[M] How did you come up with the idea for a yarn truck?

The thought of a quaint little brick-and-mortar yarn shop really appeals to me, however, I’m not quite ready for retirement, nor is my husband quite ready for me to retire either!

A few years ago, I went to a fiber festival in Newark, OH and saw The Buffalo Wool Company, a yarn truck from Kennedale, TX, parked in the lot selling its goods. I loved the concept! A yarn shop on wheels, how cool is that?! I snapped a few pics, asked many questions, and sold my husband on the idea. After doing some research, I discovered that there are approximately seven to eight yarn trucks throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Yarnover Truck in Southern California appearing to be one of the first to roll and my mentors throughout this venture.

[M] Tell me more about what shoppers will find on board.

Shoppers will find a plethora of delightful and mostly American-made and/or dyed yarns on the truck – beautiful indie dyed yarns, dyed exclusively for the truck, from The Fiber Seed Co in Tampa, FL; gorgeous wools from Mountain Meadow Wool, a spinning mill set below the Big Horn Mountains in Buffalo, WY; (It is family-operated, woman-owned company, dedicated to supporting local ranchers and raising awareness about ranching culture in the American West.); Oink. Pigments whose motto is “100 percent U.S.A. grown, spun and hand-dyed (even the Sheep are Americans!).”

Also, Cestari Sheep and Wool Company is a small family-owned and operated American manufacturer of yarn. They have a farm in Augusta County, VA where they raise sheep for wool that they use in their yarn. Other yarns are Yarn Love, a family-centered business based in Iowa that the owner, Katie, built to care for her family, and Holiday Yarns, another indie dyer that has yarns named after marvel comic strip characters. I’ve been amazed at all of the wonderful U.S. yarns that are out there. I’ll never have enough time to knit them all!

The truck with also stock needles, unique stitch markers, project bags, shawl pins, yarn bowls, soaps, buttons, etc. I’ve only approximately 7’ x 25’ space to work with, so unfortunately I won’t be able to carry near as much as I’m sure that I will want to.

[M] Why did you decide to start a mobile operation versus a brick-and-mortar? How has the rise in popularity of mobile businesses influenced your decision?

Since I’m still a member of the corporate world and will be for a little while yet, I knew that I would not be able to manage a brick-and-mortar shop full-time, and you need to be present when owning your own shop.

There is also a lot of overhead associated with a brick-and-mortar shop, i.e., a building lease, utilities, staffing and inventory. A yarn truck is an ideal way for me to get my wheels wet in the retail space with much less responsibility and certainly with less overhead. If it doesn’t work out for one reason or another, then I have a yarn sale and I sell the truck!

There are many mobile businesses these days, from food trucks to fashion trucks, but I feel that they are still a fun novelty that draws in shoppers. I’m hopeful that putting my business degree to good use, my work experience in the legal and procurement fields, and marketing with the use of social media, the yarn truck will be a success.

[M] Is this your first entrepreneurial venture? Have you used any local resources to help you get started?

It is my first venture, and I highly recommend that if you are seeking to start up your own company, whether full-time or part-time, to take the BizStartNow course offered by the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Columbus State. I found it very beneficial, as well as some workshops that I participated in with SCORE Columbus.

Also, I’ve received great advice and guidance from a few of our LYS’ (local yarn shops for those unfamiliar with knitting terminology). Karen Wilkins, owner of Knitting Temptations in Dublin and Andrea Panzica, part-owner of 614 Knit Studio in Clintonville, two very different shops, but both very helpful, informative and supportive.

[M] What events does Yarnbyrds hope to frequent?

Yarnbyrds will participate in art and craft festivals, farmer’s markets, and all major fiber festivals in Ohio and a few surrounding states. It will create a few of its own events by partnering with other small businesses, such as other yarn shops, coffee houses and wineries. We hope to establish relationships with knitting and quilting guilds and the truck will be available for private knitting events.

[M] What’s the launch date? Do you have some events lined up?

I’m planning a few small soft events to test and tune, but my first official event is 4th Friday Uptown Westerville on July 22, followed by Lazy Daze of Summer Festival in Grandview Heights on July 23. I will also be parked at The Moonlight Market on the second Saturday of each month in August, September and October. My largest show this year will be September 17-18 at the Wool Gathering – Yellow Springs Fiber Fest in Yellow Springs, OH where yarnies will come from miles around to attend.

[M] Anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I have to mention the truck…which I’ve nick named “Birdie!” It is a 2001 Class C Isata Dynamax motorhome, not your average food truck style, but it has comfortable seating, is air conditioned, has a generator and less than 70,000 miles. I happen to be married to an electrical engineer whose hobby is drag-racing, so I have the highest quality CRI lighting throughout the truck (which will show the yarns true colors) and my very own mechanic on standby! (Many thanks to my wonderful husband, Tom Richey and our good friend Gary Chaney for all of the hours they have spent helping to get me rolling!)

Follow Yarnbyrds on Facebook and Ravelry (Richey says if you are a knitter, crocheter or spinner you will know what Ravelry is.) Website, Instagram and Twitter coming soon.