Green Goat Gallery welcomes TranqWool Knitting Provisions

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 24, 2012

SPENCER – When she moved to Salisbury in 2009, Jenni Pfaff couldn’t find a place to buy high quality yarn to support her knitting habit.
Friends suggested a solution to the lack of a local yarn shop.
“Why don’t you open one?” they said.
So Pfaff, who had never owned a business, and husband Brian started TranqWool Knitting Provisions from scratch in a former house on Mocksville Avenue.
Three years later, the shop that caters to not only knitters and crocheters but “fiberists” of all kinds, has outgrown the cottage and moved into the Green Goat Gallery & Blue Ewe Yoga Studio in Spencer.
How do yarn and fiberists coexist with original artwork and yogis?
“Wonderfully,” said Anne Waters, who owns the gallery and studio with her husband Andrew, artist Cara Reische and architect Jon Palmer. “I feel like the businesses complement each other very well.”
TranqWool occupies half the gallery, located in the front of the former Sands Building across from the N.C. Transportation Museum. The large, open space at the rear of the building, which was constructed at the turn of the 20th century, houses the yoga studio and offers Pfaff a place for yarn dyeing and spinning workshops.
While it’s too soon to know for sure, Pfaff and Waters said they both expect to see a bump in sales and participation thanks to their shared location.
A few TranqWool customers are now practicing yoga, and Blue Ewe students have been wandering over to check out yarn that ranges from $3.50 to $36 per skein.
Pfaff now does yoga, and Waters is learning to knit.
The new proximity to High Rock Lake and Lexington also should help TranqWool, said Pfaff, who has customers in both locations who are excited to be closer to their source of knitting supplies.
“A yarn store is a destination,” Pfaff said. “Knitters will find you.”
Pfaff left the coziness of a cottage but gave up none of the tranquility she deems so important that she incorporated it into the name of her business.
“The Green Goat already has a reputation of being open and warm, and that’s what knitters like,” Pfaff said. “They love that feeling of home and comfort, and that’s what people are feeling when they come in here.”
Natural light floods the gallery, where contemporary artwork covers 100-year-old brick walls and one-of-a-kind creations occupy every nook and hang from the ceiling.
Pfaff has fashioned two project areas – a large table that can seat a dozen fiberists during weekly Knit Nights, held from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, as well as a quiet corner with rocking chairs and armchairs for one-on-one instruction.
Waters and Pfaff have a similar eye for design and display, further coordinated by the wooden shelves and cubbies in both shops, all constructed by Brian Pfaff.
Customers who come with a specific purchase in mind often end up lingering, exploring the vast array of arts and crafts. Yoga students wander through the gallery after class, picking up a pair of handmade earrings or jar of local honey.
“Our customers are interested in both aspects of the shop,” Pfaff said. “We complement, but we don’t compete.”
Pfaff minds the shops during the day, now that Waters works as a teacher assistant at Hanford Dole Elementary School.
Customers can still seek Waters’ expertise in art and her knack for finding the perfect gift. She’s in the shop from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Waters took the teaching job to get her yoga toes in the door with Rowan Salisbury Schools. She said she wants to find a way to bring yoga to public schoolchildren, as well as veterans at the VA Medical Center.
“It has been a dream of mine to take yoga out of my studio and into the world,” Waters said.
She has introduced two new daytime instructors at the Blue Ewe – Bonnie Busby and Maria Lowder – and continues to teach in the evening and on Saturdays.
The Green Goat Gallery is celebrating 10 years in business, and Waters has been co-owner for five years. The shop’s biggest challenge has been a lack of foot traffic in downtown Spencer, she said.
To make space for TranqWool, Waters cut the number of artists she represents to about 30 and now focuses on collectibles, fine art and handmade jewelry. She has embraced the shop’s reputation as a destination for special-occasion gifts.
“We are focusing on things people seek out, rather than trying to be a gift shop,” she said.
Afraid her artists may complain about giving up floor space to yarn, Waters said she was pleasantly surprised by how they have responded to the change.
“They are happy to have new energy here,” she said.
TranqWool customers feel the same, said Pfaff, who learned to knit from her grandmother 20 years ago.
TranqWool’s biggest challenge has been “weaning people off of Walmart yarn,” Pfaff said.”The quality of yarn makes a real difference,” she said. “There is a place for cheap yarn.”
“But you wouldn’t want to wear it,” added Brian Pfaff.
TranqWool revenue has grown by 25 percent each year since opening, but the shop still hasn’t turned a profit. The Pfaffs said they are hoping to break even this year.
Customers vary from seniors knitting sweaters for their grandchildren to working women who use knitting as a form of relaxation to fiber artists who knit with recycled items like VCR tape and grocery bags.
Knitting tends to go in and out as a fad but made a strong comeback after 9/11, when people started “cocooning” in their homes, Pfaff said. Handcrafts also traditionally see a resurgence in a down economy, when people can’t afford to buy gifts and make them instead.
Pfaff has come up with a clever way to provide one-on-one instruction. Customers can purchase a punch card for $15 that represents two hours of instruction, broken into 30-minute increments.
After a help session, Pfaff checks her watch and punches the appropriate time block.
She also offers personalized classes for beginners, as well as one-day workshops for specific projects, like making a hat.
TranqWool participates in the annual Charlotte Yarn Crawl, coming up Sept. 28 through Oct. 7.
Charlotte-area yarn shops offer specials throughout the Crawl, and participants who have their “passport” stamped at 11 out of 13 shops are in the running for the grand prize drawing.
Each day during the Crawl, TranqWool’s mascot – a little knitted snail who’s been around the world with customers a la Flat Stanley – will find a new hiding place in the shop. The first person to find him wins a prize.
As a tranquil closing to the Crawl, Waters will teach a special yoga class developed for fiberists from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 7.
Both Pfaff and Waters are ecstatic about the potential of Spencer’s new Small Town Main Street project.
The N.C. Department of Commerce recently chose downtown Spencer to receive two years of economic develop guidance from state experts in design, promotion and economic restructuring to help lure new businesses.
“There is already movement afoot because of that,” Waters said. “People are starting to look at downtown properties as investments.”
The women said they hope the program can find a way to finally make a connection between downtown Spencer and the N.C. Transportation Museum across the highway. Retailers and restaurants owners have struggled for years to convince train buffs to cross the street.
When they do venture inside, tourists and others will find a turn-of-the-century former company store now home to an eclectic art gallery, well-stocked yarn shop and peaceful yoga studio.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

TranqWool Kitting Provisions
Where: Co-located with the Green Goat Gallery and Blue Ewe Yoga Studio at 516 S. Salisbury Ave. in Spencer
When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. second Sunday of the month
Who: Jenni and Brian Pfaff, owners

Blue Ewe Yoga Studio class schedule
Tuesday: 9 a.m. Moderate Flow with Maria Lowder
5:30 p.m. Gentle Stretch and Strengthen with Anne Waters
Wednesday: 5:30 p.m. Moderate Flow with Anne Waters
Thursday: 9 a.m. Gentle Stretch and Strengthen with Bonnie Busby
Saturday: 9 a.m. Dynamic Flow with Anne Waters