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This article was published 15/11/2017 (1685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s oldest independent yarn shop has closed its doors, the victim of too much debt and too much internet.
Ram Wools Yarn Co-op, which got its start as a privately owned business in the 1970s, closed its retail shop at 942 Erin St. on Nov. 5.
By the time the shop closed, the six-member worker co-op, which purchased the business from the original owner in 2009, was down to just two members: Lori Franko and her partner Jason Loughead.
Franko said in an interview Tuesday a number of factors contributed to the shop’s demise, but the two main ones were too much debt and stiff competition from online and big box yarn retailers.
"It was insurmountable debts that the business was just not able to get around, as much as we tried," she said.
She explained the business was still quite large when the employees bought it from the original owner, so it didn’t come cheap.
But from the outset, the co-op was saddled with a large debt and it was a constant struggle to keep its head above water.
"We were quite committed and very confident that we could overcome that, but the realities of the business world weren’t in our favour.
From the time we opened (as a co-op) until the time we closed, the internet presence for the knitting industry had become strong and stronger. So that was a huge competition."
Franko said the growing popularity of the internet was both a blessing and a curse for Ram Wools. On the one hand, the growing number of online groups, websites and forums dedicated to knitting was helping to increase awareness and interest in the hobby.
"The double-edged sword is that it also created a huge amount of competition (for regular bricks-and-mortar yarn shops)," she said.
She said having three big box Michael’s stores in the city, which sell yarn, also didn’t help.
"They are tough to go up against. Everybody has the impression they’re going to get a better deal at a big box store. That impression may not always be true, but it’s just extremely hard to compete against that mindset."
Franko said Ram Wools operated out of a variety of locations over the years. It started out on Osborne Street, and then operated for many years out of a building on Smith Street. After that, it moved to a building on Fife Street for about 10 years, then to 989 Portage Ave., and finally to Erin Street in January of this year.
Franko said she and Loughead, who has another full-time job, haven’t decided if they’ll start their own yarn business.
"There are thoughts about developing our own line of yarn in the future, but first we’d have to come up with a business plan to make that happen."
In the meantime, Franko plans to continue teaching knitting lessons — something she’s been doing since 2009 — and maybe hold some knitting parties.
She said the co-op hosted two of them shortly before it closed, and both were well-received.
She added that Ram Wools’ demise leaves just one independent, locally-owned yarn shop in the city — Wolseley Wool on Westminster Avenue.