News

Yarn & Yoga bids farewell to Bristol

SEVEN YEARS AGO these seven women partnered to form Yarn & Yoga in downtown Bristol and together they built the store into a vibrant community hub. This month they passed the torch to a couple from Wisconsin. Pictured from left are (front row) Mary McGuire, Janet Chill, Diane Corey, Anne Wallace; (back row) Karen McEachen, Laurie Lowy and Elissa Cobb. Independent photo/Christopher Ross

In hindsight, I think we made money because we weren’t trying to. The universe smiled on us because that was not our point.
— Elissa Cobb

BRISTOL — After a seven-year run, the seven women partners who founded Yarn & Yoga and built it into a vital downtown Bristol business and community hub are passing the torch to a new generation.

With the purchase of Yarn & Yoga’s assets, which was officially completed on Tuesday, Ashley Randazzo, 33, and Greyson Ursick, 32, most recently of Wisconsin, became the youngest yarn store owners in New England.

Their business, Hermit Thrush Fiber Co., will operate in the same space as Yarn & Yoga — 25a Main Street. Though they won’t be hosting yoga, they’ll be looking to preserve the aspects of Yarn & Yoga that were most beloved in the community.

Yarn & Yoga served its last customer this past Friday. On Saturday, the Independent sat down with the shop’s seven partners — Elissa Cobb, Janet Chill, Diane Corey, Laurie Lowy, Karen McEachen, Mary McGuire and Anne Wallace — along with Randazzo and Ursick, to reflect on the past seven years of business, and what’s on the horizon.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ORIGINS

Chill: (Yarn & Yoga) was the brainchild of Elissa. We all fit into her vision, and it was an honor to be part of it. We were all special in our own way, but together we’re just electric. I think she knew that right away.

Corey: We often had people ask us how seven women could all get along and move this resource forward. And it was always just like, “It happens.”

Wallace: I remember at one meeting we were asking what we should do (about something), and Laurie said, “Let’s go back to our origins: If it’s not fun, don’t do it.”

Cobb: I think it’s a rare event but a very natural one at the same time. It just fell together. Like no-brainer.

McEachen: We also supported one another. For instance, if someone had a graduation they had to go to, someone else would take over (the store). Or if they went on an extended vacation, we arranged the schedule so everyone could be accommodated. We had each other’s back, in sickness and in health.

Cobb: I think part of our success was that our mission wasn’t about money. (Regardless of investment level) we all went in as equal partners with an equal say in how to run the business. In hindsight, I think we made money because we weren’t trying to. The universe smiled on us because that was not our point.

Corey: I think everybody was on board with the fact that we really wanted to become integrated into the community and promote a spirit of community and camaraderie in our shop. My sense is that it started to mushroom in ways that are almost hard to describe. Over the years we’ve become very much a community resource. We had a huge sit-n-knit group. We had classes and workshops, well attended most of the time, and yoga classes that were very well attended and appreciated.

Chill: And discussion groups on Wednesday nights. It was all open to the community, focusing around not just knitting but well-being.

Cobb: There is such an energetic and spiritual connection between the two things that we did. When you get your body involved, it takes you to a whole different place. It happens in yoga and it happens in handwork. And when your hands are knitting, emotions come out, stories come out. People would come in with their knitting and pretty soon you knew their whole life story, and whereas we might have gone home feeling a little heavier because of hearing whatever story it was, the people who got to tell their story got to go home a bit lighter. I think we were all really good listeners.

Wallace: There was a lot of laughter in this room, too, which was fun.

YOGA

Cobb: Yoga was a huge part of what we did here (until COVID came around). It was really special. With all the yarn around, people used to call it the Yoga Womb instead of the Yoga Room. A lot of people reading this article will miss this space because of the yoga.

Corey: There were times when this room, as small as you may think it is, was absolutely packed to the hilt. There were 12 bodies in this space, multiple ones out there in that space, some over there in that space. And it always seemed like there was room for one more.

MOVING ON

Wallace: When I think back on (the decision to sell), it seems miraculous. At a meeting in September we asked, “What’s our next year’s plan?” A couple of us said, “I’m almost thinking it’s time to move on.” It was maybe a tiny bit because of COVID, but more because there were other things we wanted to do: new grandchildren, trips that wanted to be taken.

McGuire: When we first started (seven years ago), I expected that stopping would be hard. I thought, “Oh dear, what’s going to happen? Are we going to go out one by one?” But to Anne’s point, it felt pretty organic. Quite honestly I was one of the holdouts. I thought, “Oh really, do we have to?” But then I thought, “Yeah, it’s definitely time.”

Cobb: We’re incredibly grateful to our customers and community and downtown businesses who supported us over the years.

NEW FACES

Randazzo: We moved here from Wisconsin and were looking for a place to live in this area. We found out through a mutual friend that Yarn & Yoga was selling, and it’s always been my lifelong dream to own a yarn store, so it was serendipitous. And here we are.

Ursick: We want to be mindful of how we can bring our 30-something energy but still maintain the pillar of the community this place has been. So our focus will be on maintaining the old spirit but also incorporating some aspects of technology and social media. We’ll also be focusing on carrying a lot of natural fibers and connecting with local farmers and producers, and companies owned by people of color and people of the queer community nationwide.

Cobb: I think there’s something to be said for lineage. We took over from Jean Clark, Knits & Bolts in New Haven, seven years ago. And now we’re passing that along. We were all different in our approach, but it’s still a lineage.

OPENING SOON

Randazzo: We’re going to open on June 18, which is a Friday.

(Yarn & Yoga’s seven partners let out a collective gasp.)

McGuire: That’s exactly the date we opened (seven years ago)!

Cobb: This is what I mean by rare, but natural. It just sort of happens.

(The room fills with excited chatter.)

Randazzo: (In the meantime), if people see us they should feel free to knock and introduce themselves. We’re really excited to meet everybody and be a part of the community.

McGuire: We’re really excited for Ashley and Greyson. Somebody tried to come in shopping this morning and she looked so sad. “Oh, you’re closing, that’s too bad,” she said, and I said, “No, it’s a great thing. We think the next yarn shop is going to be wonderful.”

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
Homepage Featured News

Sen. Leahy reflects on his life in politics

Patrick Leahy was the third-longest-serving U.S. senator, cast more than 17,000 votes, and … (read more)

News

Midd Film Fest founder pares back his job

A decade after launching the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in partnership with renown … (read more)

News

Ferrisburgh gets $500K to help boost safety

Ferrisburgh has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant through the Vermont Agency of Transp … (read more)

Share this story: