End of the Skein: Wild & Woolly to Close Lexington Store
A yarn about yarn, the closing of a store and the opening of new doors.
By Patrick Ball
You can learn a lot about someone by their yarn.
For Jacquelyn Katzenstein, an English major at heart and retailer by trade, that’s as true with people’s stories as it is their textiles.
Known to most as the owner the local yarn shop Wild & Woolly, Katzenstein has been a Lexington Center staple for decades. And, over the past 34 years, she’s gotten to know a lot of folks by their words and deeds.
But the time as come to close Wild & Woolly Studio, for Katzenstein to walk away from the only real job she’s ever had and to find her next adventure.
“It’s probably the right time,” Katzenstein said last week as loyal employees and customers helped prep the Meriam Street store for the sale to end all. “What I will miss is the whole people aspect. This has been my second home and my people connection. I’ll miss the place, and I’ll miss the people. I’ve enjoyed meeting them all and hope they’ll go on and continue what we’ve taught them.”
Wild & Woolly will close at the end of June, following a month-long liquidation sale that began last week. Fittingly, Katzenstein announced her plans to shutter the store and hold a massive liquidation sale earlier this month via her popular newsletter.
The store closed May 19 through May 22 to prepare for the closing sale, which began May 23. She asked local media to withhold news of the sale until this week, with the intention of giving her loyal customers and readers a head start on the deals. The entire contents of the store will be for sale, from the thousands of yarns, needles, patterns, books and hand-knit garments to the furniture and store fixtures.
“It’s very sad because this is the end of something,” said Katzenstein. “You do something for 34 years, and this is your life really. This has been just a wonderful business to be in. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have done.”
Wild & Woolly, Its Prologue, and Its Epilogue
Jackie Katzenstein has been knitting since she was a 5-year-old growing up in New York family of retailers. She can’t ever remember not doing it. Wild & Woolly was her first real full-time job. Before that she sold her own handmade pieces out of her house, and then at bookstore that used to occupy the space Katzenstein will vacate at the end of June.
But she wasn’t afraid to dive right in, she said, because she knew yarn and she knew retail. “What a wonderful way to spend my life, and what a wonderful place to do it,” Katzenstein said. “Lexington happens to have very interesting customers. I love the retail, with the people, the teaching and the learning.”
As other yarn stores came and went over the years, Wild & Wolly dug in and became a destination, its vast inventory of colorful and imported attracting customers from all over. Locals, tourists and crafters from around the country would stop by to stock up and talk shop.
Katzenstein could always pick out the new knitters because they’d be looking for blue yarn to make a blue hat, or red yarn for a red scarf. The yarn-lovers, she says, would select the yarn first and let the color and texture inspire a project.
Yarn doesn’t go out of style, according to Katzenstein, but the business evolves.
Across the industry, craft shops—especially luxury ones like Wild & Woolly—have struggled to hold tight to their niche as customers have less time and/or money to spend on their crafts. Which has made it a must for specialty retailers to become more service-oriented; to educate new customers and make sure old ones got their money’s worth.
“This is 50 percent service,” says Katzenstein of the business she built at Wild & Wolly. “That’s very important for an independent business, especially one that requires knowledge.”
And so Wild & Wolly adjusted. They’ve been offering in-store clinics for a decade or more and utilized the Internet and e-newsletters as a way to connect with customers near and far. Still, they struggled to pay the rent.
Katzenstein doesn’t have a bad thing to say about her landlord, but admits the decision to close the store was made easier by the prospect of increased rent and a new tenant willing to move in to her two-story space on Meriam Street.
Which brings us back to the sale – and what comes next.
According to Katzenstein, Wild & Woolly will be liquidating merchandise including yarns, needls, cards, buttons, books, patterns, model garments and accessories from suppliers like Rowan, Cascade, Plymouth, Manos del Uruguay, Sublime, Sirdar, Debbie Bliss, Noro, Classic Elite, Opal, Dale, Berroco, Brown Sheep, Knitting Fever, Frog Tree, Green Mountain, Knit One, Mirasol, Skacel, Tahki, Swedish Yarns, Trendsetters and many more.
In addition to discounted prices, the sale event features a “Contest Desk” inside the store, where shoppers will be eligible to claim daily “Prize Points.”
As shelves clear of their inventory and then themselves disappear from the store, it will be difficult for Katzenstein to see it all go. But she still has her health, her passion and the friends she’s met along the way.
And she still has the name, Wild & Woolly.
Katzenstein doesn’t know what the future holds for Wild & Woolly, but she has some ideas and will be using the Wild & Woolly website and, most likely, the occasional newsletter to keep her friends and supporters in the loop as she figures it out.
“Craft is a community,” Katzenstein said, “They use community fairly loosely these days, but it really is.”
She’ll be betting on it.