2020-06-17

Wool shop knits community together during hard times

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Heather Tunnah, owner of Have a Yarn in Mahone Bay.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTO, HAVE A YARN</p><p>Have a Yarn actively pushed sales of the blue and green yarn produced in Halifax called Nova Scotia, since up to five dollars of every skein sold was going to the Nova Scotia Strong campaign.</p>
  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTO, HAVE A YARN</p><p>Have a Yarn wool shop on Mahone Bay&#8217;s Main Street is open to customers once more, but currently by appointment or for shoppers coming in one at a time.</p>

A wool shop in Mahone Bay has been knitting together a community of people in the province who were sequestered in their homes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and left to dwell on other tragic events such as the mass shooting in April.

In business for the past 20 years, Have a Yarn has been going above and beyond normal operations during these challenging times, earning it a nomination in the Shine On campaign.

Orchestrated by LighthouseNOW and its parent company, Advocate Media Inc., the Shine On campaign aims to showcase outstanding businesses in Lunenburg and Queens counties that are making a difference in their communities during these trying times. The businesses have a chance at being highlighted in the company's newspapers, as well as winning $3,000 worth of free advertising for when the economy picks up.

Angela Churchill, a former employee of Have a Yarn, which is owned by Heather Tunnah, felt the shop was worthy of recognition.

"As soon as the state of emergency was announced in NS, Heather quickly adapted to make the shop safe for customers and staff. She offered curbside pick-up and mail orders, closing the shop to in-person shopping. As restrictions have lifted, she has opened for appointment shopping to ensure only one customer is in the shop at a time. She has slowly added longer hours," Churchill explained in nominating Have a Yarn.

"With more people staying home, more people have time to knit and Heather goes above and beyond to make sure her customers have the right supplies for their projects. She often checks emails and Facebook messages in her off hours. In this time of uncertainty she has found a way to serve her customers and keep the shop open," she added.

Initially, Tunnah thought she herself might be able to remain at the business, working mornings to handle mail orders and curbside pick-up.

"Well, I very quickly learned that that wasn't going to be enough," Tunnah told LighthouseNOW. "It's incredibly labour-intensive, because, as you can imagine, yarn is a very visual as well as tactile thing."

With the tactile part of the business on hold, she concentrated on the visuals, taking "so many photographs, you have no idea.

"The store looked like a bomb went off, because I was constantly yanking different yarns out of the bins and, you know, laying them out, photographing them, and then sending them off." The customers would then respond with their preferences and she would prepare the orders.

While it worked well for Tunnah, she began to accept that a few mornings a week simply "wasn't going to cut it." She made it three full days a week, and in late April she pushed it to four. As people sequestered in their homes and looked for things to occupy their time there, demand for her yarns grew.

"There were literally people that were crawling out of the woodwork. People who had never [knitted] or knitted many years ago," Tunnah reported to LighthouseNOW. "They were stuck at home, so it was the perfect thing to turn to."

Meanwhile, her regular customers were also reaching out. "You see it's quite calming for the majority of people. And also you're being productive," explained Tunnah.

Tunnah also lent support to the Nova Scotia Srong campaign, promoting yarn produced by a company in Halifax - Handmaiden/Fleece Artist.

The company offers a line of coloured yarn called Nova Scotia. "It's very representative of the colours that you associate when you think of Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotian tartan. It's blues and greens."

While she usually carries the yarn, she made an extra effort to promote it when the producer announced it would donate up to five dollars for every skein sold to the Nova Scotia Strong campaign. Tunnah promoted the yarn on Facebook and Instagram, "and that just went viral. I had orders from all over the country and the States," she reported.

Tunnah sold "at least" 40 skeins, and depleted her entire stock.

She has since opened the store to customers again, four days a week, and is allowing walk-in shoppers either by appointment or one at a time.

However, now that things are opening up, she says business is getting a little bit quieter, since there are now more things for people to do. At this point, says Tunnah, who has run the business for the past 20 years, and owned it for nine, "I'm just taking it day by day."

Anyone wanting to nominate a business in the Shine On campaign can do so by connecting with the Shine On link at the top of this newspaper's website at: https://lighthousenow.ca, or by mailing a handwritten nomination with the business's name, as well as the nominator's name, email address, phone number and reason for the nomination. People are welcome to nominate their own businesses in the campaign as well.

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