WEST DOVER -- Cynthia Cohen named her new yarn store after the ugly duckling because there was so much potential in the baby swan that no one saw.
"They only saw what was on the surface and sure enough, the potential came. I think that's how it is with fiber crafts. There's a lot of potential but it's hard to see sometimes," she said. "There's so much potential and hope in yarn. I like seeing my customers leave with that look of hope and potential in their day."
On Oct. 13, an open house was held at the Ugly Duckling Yarn store located at 114 Route 100 in West Dover. Cohen said the event went very well.
"It was fantastic. We had people here open to close. There was lots of energy. People were sitting and knitting and talking," said Cohen. "Strangers talking about knitting was really fun to watch."
The idea to open the shop at its location came after Cohen's husband told her there was plenty of space in his building because he wasn't using all of the free space for his law practice. That's when Cohen began setting up shop.
This is her first time being the sole owner of a business, after working in retail for more than 20 years. In her youth, Cohen worked day shifts at her father's comic book store in Florida.
"It was absolutely glorious," she said. "I got to see all the behind-the-scenes with him."
For the past 10 years, Cohen has become more and more passionate about knitting. Opening a store of her own had always been a dream.
"I started with knitting. Then I started spinning my own yarn," she said. "I'm just starting to learn how to weave."
By immersing herself in fiber, Cohen said that spinning her own yarn had been part of a natural progression and part of the way her family lived.
"It wasn't anything unusual. It was an extension of what I did at home. I'd spin at home. I'd knit at home," continued Cohen. "When I was pregnant, I'd dye yarn with Kool-Aid because it was something I could do safely. I would adjust to my family."
Speaking of family, Cohen's children often assist with the day-to-day tasks involved in running a business. Her 6-year-old even counts yarn packages, keeping an eye on the inventory.
The family has lived in the Deerfield Valley for about a year now. Cohen's husband had graduated from Wilmington High School when it was still known as Wilmington High School.
Cohen had previously lived in Connecticut before Florida. Moving to New England made knitting more attractive to her. She didn't realize how much colder it would be during the winter. Wool became more necessary.
The knitting community has started to welcome Cohen in her new home. Some knitting groups have talked to her about different events happening in the area. Owners and managers of a few local inns have discussed collaborative events.
One idea that was showcased at the open house event was having samples of soup and appetizers from different local restaurants in the Ugly Duckling. A chef from the neighboring Deerfield Valley Inn brought a soup to the open house.
"If the shop could be a destination for people, it could be a way to introduce people to the valley," said Cohen. "Once you get a connection, then you can recommend it and talk about it. Word of mouth is so influential."
Another way she plans to collaborate is by featuring products made by local artisans.
Already, Cohen has stocked some little booties made by a local woman and handbags that were created using a 1930s sewing machine. She has plans to carry locally-concocted maple syrup.
"I think people want a connection to the things that they buy," said Cohen. "They want to know the story of it."
For now, Cohen plans to hold one-on-one classes. She believes it can be intimidating for people to learn in a group setting. Those individual classes will last an hour then the person is free to stay and practice at the Ugly Duckling.
"They can also call me anytime," said Cohen. "I think customer service is important in any business, particularly in one where there is so much to learn."
The official grand opening will be held on Nov. 16. The overall aim is to continuously host a mix of locals and visitors in the shop. There will be two knitting nights held each week, once midweek then once during the weekend.
Until the grand opening, the Ugly Duckling will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except Tuesdays and Thursdays. After the grand opening, the store will be extend its hours until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.