By Stacee Sledge
Andrea Evans wanted to create a Cheers for the knitting crowd.
If a recent visit to the shop she co-owns with husband, Andrew Evans, is any indication, that’s exactly what they’ve built with Apple Yarns.
A stream of customers comes through the yarn shop’s door just after opening, taking a seat at a long table or one of four cushy red armchairs in a window-lined space called the gathering room.
And sure enough, everyone is greeted by name – by Andrea, by Andrew, and by one another.
Andrea grew up in retail. Her family owned a lumber-hardware store in California. “I worked there from when I was a little kid,” she says.
After college, she worked for an interior design firm and in marketing, met and married Andrew, and started a family. The couple moved to Bellingham days before their oldest son started kindergarten – and they never looked back.
“We live in Bellingham, love Bellingham, and are so happy to raise our kids here,” she says.
The couple has always worked for themselves – Andrew also owns Blazing Banners – and as their three children grew older, Andrea was looking for a different career path.
“I was ready to go back to work, but I didn’t want to do interior design anymore,” she says.
Andrea had taken up knitting a few years before, as something to do while waiting for the kids at their various activities.
Always a small business supporter, Andrea was shopping at a local yarn shop when she realized what she wanted to do.
“My retail genes started kicking in,” she says with a laugh.
There was no yarn shop on the east side of the freeway, and no place that fulfilled her personal yarn shopping wish list – somewhere customers could gather and socialize while knitting. “We had great small businesses but we didn’t have what I wanted,” she says.
A space opened up in Barkley Village, Andrea wrote a business plan, and Apple Yarns opened its doors in August of 2007. It eventually moved to a larger space in Barkley, next door to Starbucks. When the current space on Iowa Street became available – with twice the square footage – they jumped at it, confident that Apple Yarns could stand on its own as a destination. It certainly has.
And the shop name? “I don’t know what it is about apples,” Andrea says. “I’ve just always liked the way that word looks.” The couple has five apple trees in their front yard – and a dog named Apple (who came before the store).
Selling locally is most important to Andrea and Andrew, but the Apple Yarns website grows every day and helps keep the store successful.
“Knitters are pretty computer savvy, which most people don’t guess,” says Andrea. “The fastest growing age group for knitters is 18 to 35.”
Apple Yarns employs four part-time staff members – all of whom have been with them since the very beginning.
Ask Andrea to name her favorite thing about owning and operating Apple Yarns and she answers without hesitation: “Oh, that’s easy,” she says. “The people. We are a community within a community. We really get to know our customers – and we like them.”
But don’t think that Andrea gets to sit down every day with those customers who drop in and congregate in the gathering room, talking, laughing and knitting.
But that’s not to say she doesn’t knit, because she does – nearly all the time when she’s away from work.
“I don’t sit down without knitting. How do you even watch TV without knitting? I don’t get it,” she jokes. “I don’t sit in the car without knitting.”
Andrea especially likes knitting things for her kids.
“They’ve grown up around all of this,” she says. “I know my middle schooler is not going to wear a sweater to school that I hand knit, but a cowl in angora, something like that? She’ll wear it all the time. I’m pretty good at picking those projects.”
She says this year has been the year of hand knit socks at her house and the kids wear them all the time.
Andrea points out a gorgeous, intricate sweater a customer is wearing. “That sweater Gretchen did, there? That requires thought. I would never knit that. I don’t think and knit. I just do simple knits.”
And she doesn’t knit alone. After the couple opened the shop, Andrew picked up the knitting needles, as well.
1780 Iowa Street
Mon – Fri: 10am to 6pm
Sat: 10am to 6pm
Sun: 12pm to 4pm