As we begin the countdown to Small Business Saturday, I thought I'd share a little more with you about the history of opening the store.
You have probably already read the about section on the website or listened to the video, so you know that I left a position as a tenured Associate Professor of English in 2017 because I was extremely unhappy and had been for a number of years. In fact, I decided I would eventually leave the university the year I went up for tenure. While some people may be shocked at that decision, those who really know me knew it was coming. Research and writing, not teaching, were always my first loves. They were why I initially chose to pursue a PhD back when I was 18 years old. However, particularly in the humanities, research jobs are a relic of days past, and to find a suitable career in academia, one has to teach. I was good at teaching and excelled at curricular development and assessment, but it didn't make me happy. I was also thoroughly disillusioned by so many aspects of university life that I knew one day I would leave.
Around the time I planned my exit--and it was a complete long game, btw. I had everything planned as far back as the spring of 2012 from which yarn brands I wanted to begin stocking and even the exact date when I would submit my resignation letter--I had been researching handcraft and sentiment in literature. I had always been a maker, whether it was painting, crocheting, knitting, embroidery, quilting, etc., and having written my dissertation on sympathy, ambivalence, and sentiment as a commodity and currency in cultural exchange within postcolonial literature, moving into materialism, handcraft, and sentiment was a natural extention of my research interests. At the time, I was also involved in a quilting group that met in Tunkhannock, PA, and the Mid-Atlantic Embroiderers Guild. And what I found was that the thought of being able to reorient my life around fiber and yarn energized me. It simply felt right. So, I began to research starting a small business and attended the First Steps Seminar at the Small Business Development Center at the university.
From there, I spent the remaining five years of my time at the university devising a detailed plan for how I would approach starting my own yarn store. I knew what I was going to name it after all of my research into literature and handcraft. I had ideas about what I wanted to stock, how I wanted to proceed, even elements for how I would decorate the store. I read everything I could--fiction, nonfiction, how-to-books, blogs, business plans--you name it. And then I resigned in the spring of 2017 and moved back to my hometown where I took on other work for two years in an effort to save and scope out options.
Then, finally, in the spring of 2019, the timing seemed right. I worked with the Small Business Development Center at Gannon, finalized my business plan, found that the little storefront on the corner of Hannon and Buffalo Roads that I always loved was still available for rent, and went for it.
The reality of owning a small business is definitely more difficult and stressful than I could have imagined. There's a lot more fear about the future than when I knew I would always have at least two English 101: Composition classes every semester. But, I'm far happier than I was for a very long time. I control how I spend my days. I am the one in charge of setting the tone, establishing the atmosphere, making the rules. If I have a meeting, it's one that I am actually invested in and not a waste of my time and energy. And while I don't have time off, either, for the most part, I'm doing something that doesn't feel quite like work because I'm still playing with yarn and fiber, still enjoying colors and texture and techniques, still learning new things about history, folklore, literature, and culture every day.
So, that's my story. I still do freelance editing. I still research and write. I continue to publish academically even though I left the university. But life is on my terms now, and that I get to live it with yarn and fiber makes it even better.