Must Love Yarn: A labor of love

Must Love Yarn is a collaboration between Jennifer Arbuckle, Kelly Otty and Angela Zaikowski; three women with very different backgrounds who share a love of knitting. Courtesy photo
Must Love Yarn is a collaboration between Jennifer Arbuckle, Kelly Otty and Angela Zaikowski; three women with very different backgrounds who share a love of knitting. Courtesy photo

A new store opened on Shelburne Road this month. Must Love Yarn is a collaboration between Jennifer Arbuckle, Kelly Otty and Angela Zaikowski, three women with very different backgrounds who share a love of knitting. The trio met four years ago at a knitting group at the Charlotte Library. Otty and Arbuckle initially talked about opening a store and later, Arbuckle and Zaikowski had a similar discussion. About six months ago the three were all in agreement that it was time to take the plunge.

Their storefront is located at 2538 Shelburne Road between Pine Haven Road and the Quality Inn. “We wanted between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet and there isn’t a lot on the market at that size,” Arbuckle said.

The three women have very different vocational backgrounds. Otty, who will be the most regular presence at the store, has almost twenty years of retail experience. Arbuckle is an attorney who has her own firm in Shelburne and runs a trade association for landlords. “I had the entrepreneurial bug,” she said of her change in focus. “I wanted to open something that was a passion of mine.”

Zaikowski is a partner in an architectural firm in Williston. “Knitting is my meditation and stress release,” she said, noting wryly that opening a new store is pretty much the antithesis of stress reduction.

In addition to their varying professional backgrounds, Arbuckle, Otty and Zaikowski discovered knitting at different stages of their lives. Arbuckle is a self-taught knitter who started the practice in law school. “It’s part of who I am and what I do,” she said, noting that her family would probably refer to her as a compulsive knitter.

Otty was taught by her grandmother at the age of eight and knitted on and off until she discovered spinning in 2009, which she credits with having helped build her familiarity with yarn and make her a better knitter.

Zaikowski was also taught by her grandmother at a young age. “Then I turned into a teenager,” she said, but she picked up her needles again a dozen years ago. “It caught this time,” she said.

The trio are planning an ambitious store schedule of seven days a week, with Otty the consistent face behind the counter and Arbuckle and Zaikowski helping out on weekends and whenever they have free time. The latter two were the ones who lobbied for weekend hours, noting that for those with day jobs like themselves, it’s important to be able to shop outside normal work hours.

Must Love Yarn will have a variety of products but they intend to carry as much local yarn as possible to support local sheep farmers and dyers. They are also hoping to support small entrepreneurs with accessory items like buttons. “There has been an explosion in the fiber arts in Vermont,” Zaikowski said. “We’d like to bring attention to that and let people know what’s happening in the community.”

In addition to products, the trio hope to have a full roster of classes, ranging from basic lessons, which they will teach themselves, to workshops with nationally-known instructors. They plan to host dyeing and crocheting classes as well, and perhaps have knitting retreat weekends.

“We decided to make this dream a reality because we felt there was a need in the fiber arts community for a new store, and we have a great combination of skills between us that really complement one another to make this business a success,” said Otty. “We want to share our love of yarn and the fiber arts.”

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