At Beach Basket, the common thread is the yarn

Published on Wed, Nov 26, 2008 by Ruth HigginsWomen lined up in their nightwear and robes for hours in the cold crisp dawn November 15 in front of Birch Bay’s Beach Basket Yarns and Gifts. Owner Mary Muncy had announced a 6 a.m. “Pajama Party” with huge discounts.

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At Beach Basket, the common thread is the yarn

By Ruth Higgins

Women lined up in their nightwear and robes for hours in the cold crisp dawn November 15 in front of Birch Bay’s Beach Basket Yarns and Gifts. Owner Mary Muncy had announced a 6 a.m. “Pajama Party” with huge discounts.

The discounts were gigantic: 70 percent off in the first hour, decreasing 10 percent each hour until noon. About 200 people benefited. “If we had 75 to 100 people, I would have been thrilled,” said Muncy, blown away by the crowd.

Some wondered if this was a “Going-Out-of-Business” sale. Definitely not, said Muncy. The intent was to move some stock to make room for new materials.
“There were people here who had never been to Birch Bay before,” Muncy said. They learned about the event from notices in The Northern Light and The Bellingham Herald’s “Take Five” section, in addition to an e-mail newsletter and word-of-mouth.

The promotion was so effective, “They were out here with their camp chairs and lattes at 5 a.m.,” said Jeanie Gibson, who teaches knitting and crocheting classes and staffs the store three days a week.

Fellow knitter and Yarn Tales Knitting Guild member, Nancy Vaught, of Bellingham, produces the newsletter, which she sends to a group of knitters (and other yarn crafters) self-labelled as a Knit-Net. The person-to-person communication started with the loyal groups of women who gather at Muncy’s shop on Tuesday evening and Friday afternoon to work on their projects.

The fact they are all women is not by design; a couple of male knitters are customers, but have yet to join a group.

The groups are one of Muncy’s favorite aspects of the business. “All these people who would never have met each other; all with a common thread,” she said with a smile.

Muncy started the yarn shop in a little cabin off the beaten path just south of Alderson Road in Birch Bay. She and Gibson had offered knit and crochet items through craft shows and farmer’s markets during and following their careers with Safeway Inc. in Seattle. After separately moving to Birch Bay, they were happy with everything but the yarn scene. Gibson, leading a small knitting group in Birch Bay Village, shared Muncy’s despair at the lack of a good gathering place for such activities. The Muncy’s rental cabin had potential for a yarn sales and craft site.

Opening for business at the corner of Terrell Drive and Birch Drive in the fall of 2005, they quickly found the space too small. In May 2006, they moved to the Birch Bay Drive location, which is already bulging at the seams.

Muncy’s marketing and customer service experience comes from her years as a Mary Kay representative and from running an antique shop in Friday Harbor on weekends while holding down her shipping department job with Safeway. Her processing skills rise from 25 years of juggling those Safeway shipping dock responsibilities. She has applied these skills to developing Beach Basket Yarns and Gifts.

While originally dubious about the prospects of a yarn store, Muncy’s husband “Mac” is now fully onboard. Not only did he make the 25 mini-clipboards essential to speeding up processing the hoard of sale-seekers, he also provided sandwiches for all the workers on Saturday.

Helpers distributed the clipboards with sales slips showing the time of arrival for discount purposes. Customers filled their shopping baskets from the display racks, woven baskets and laden shelves and took their places in the checkout line.

More helpers filled out the sales slips, extended the unit price and computed totals, so that Muncy could swiftly compute the discount while cashiering. Six a.m. arrivals were still going through the line at noon, getting their 70 percent discount behind latecomers enjoying a 20 or 30 percent saving.

Muncy got the idea for the sale from her Skacel yarn/Addi needle representative. With the help of Gibson, and with suggestions from two of her constant crafters and volunteers, Colleen Freeman, of Blaine, and Katherine Schmidt, of Birch Bay, the idea became reality.

Other helpers Peg Kennedy, Birch Bay; Lisa Wood, Maple Falls; Jan Smith, Birch Bay; and Peggy Harney and Cathi Rogers, Blaine, assisted with refreshments, advising customers, and processing sales slips.

A group from Lynden in their nightgowns and robes had been in line for an hour and a half at 7:30 a.m., but were not giving up. Debby Baron, Nancy Swinburnson, Garnet Parker and Ruth Konig agreed they were having fun. “Besides, “said Swinburnson, “We got our forms signed showing we were here at 6 a.m.”

Another early arrival waiting her turn was Debbie Howell, from Langley, B.C., with her little dog Violet, who also accompanied her to the shop. She described herself as “a fairly new knitter” and said, “I took a sock-knitting class here with another Debbi who taught the class.” Even though there are a couple of yarn shops in Langley, Howell said, “I like the ladies who meet here on Friday afternoons.” She comes regularly, except in the summer when the border lines are too long.

An unidentified passer-by asked about all the excitement. When informed, he said, “That many people care about yarn?”

Saturday’s turnout made clear, indeed they do.

Beach Basket Yarn and Gifts is located at 7620 Birch Bay Drive, Birch Bay. Open Mon. – Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Knit-in times: Tuesdays 5 to 7:30 p.m., Fridays 3 to 5 p.m. Phone 371-0332. The Yarn Tales Knitting Guild meets the first Monday of the month at the Squalicum Yacht Club, 2633 S. Harbor Loop Dr., Bellingham, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (brown bag lunch), and the third Thursday of the month at the Ferndale Library, 2222 Main St., Ferndale from 6 to 8 p.m. Annual fees are $30. For more information, call 733-6416.