Thursday, February 12, 2015

Meet Justine Malone, Owner of Cast Away Yarn

How could we not celebrate a creative Mompreneur who spearheaded a yarn bombing of Railroad Square in Santa Rosa? Justine Malone shares with us why knitting is a great way for kids to learn?

What do you consider your greatest achievement as a small business owner?

That so many people know about my shop in only 5 years! I want to be a staple in Santa Rosa/Sonoma County/Railroad Square. I wouldn’t have my shop ANYWHERE else. I fantasized for years about being here. To me it was the ultimate. I had 2 shops before this and wished both of them were here. I live on the West side of the tracks and try to do most of my living over here. The great thing about our large and vibrant city is that the downtown really feels like a small town. we don’t feel much bigger than Petaluma or Healdsburg, even though we are the county seat and triple their populations. I have been adamant about shopping local for 20+ years, no matter what my community. Living near Railroad Square for 13+ years, and having my business here for the last 5 years makes me feel like I am finally a permanent part of a community. I run into the same people every day, have regular customers, and spend as much of my money within 1 mile of my house as possible!

Why is knitting a great skill for kids? What do they learn?

It teaches them fine motor skills and basic math. It brings the focus into a small sphere, allowing ​for concentration​ and feeling lost in something at the same time. Kids are my best students, they are used to learning new things every day and don't doubt their abilities.

What advice would you share with someone who wanted to make their love of Art also their means of income?

Well first off the answer isn't that glamorous: you need to enjoy running a business. Because 80% of what you will be doing all day is the business part. After that I'd say delegate. Free up as much of your time and you can so you can bring your all into even the boring business parts. Pay people to do the things that show your creativity, even if those things aren't cheap to hire out. It might be inexpensive to hire someone to do the things you love but don't be tempted to give those jobs away.

What’s your favorite thing to talk about with your customers?

I love it when customers tell me about an ongoing or finished project and include stories about what was going on in their life when they made the item. Some people knit during boring periods of life- school, meetings, work. Some find knitting helps them through loss- quite a lot of people come in to stock up for hospital stays. Some people have pets that try very hard to destroy their projects! It can be boring, trying, and comical. Such is life!be a better student in areas that are challenging for me, mindset is 90%!

What is a positive thing that beginning knitters often say?

“This is fun!” “I’m doing it! ”Oh my gosh I made this!” (about a tiny square of nothingness which makes it even cuter), or even “I am awful at this hahahaha!!!” and then keep trying with a smile. Students who talk like this do well. The ones who say “I won’t be able to do this” ”This is terrible!” ”I’m not creative” just don’t do well. Teaching knitting has taught me how to

How is knitting changing peoples lives?

I have a lot of beginning knitting students that are at retirement age. These are women (yes, mostly women- you should see how excited we get when we get a male student!) whose mothers were knitters & crocheters. Baby boomers wanted nothing to do with hand crafts back then- but now these women are excited and thankful to have someone teach them what they weren’t ready for 30 years ago. I like to think that these people walk away with a sense of nostalgia and pride.

Why do you think people love to see your dog at work?

Oh wow, that dog has taught me a lot. Greeting people with pure love, adoration and the complete expectation of all of that in return. How could you not fall for that?!! Also, everyone needs to get out of their head. She’s silly.

In what ways do your customers inspire you?

I have customers that go to knitting retreats & events, remember the names of designers and patterns, knit sweaters in weekends! I so wish I could do this. My brain is scrambled with the daily chores of running a shop. I can’t wait to someday take some time off and immerse myself in … ironically… knitting!

What is your favorite yarn or project of all time and why?

Don’t make me choose! I love The Fibre Company yarns, Shibui, Skacel yarn company ( I love rain and cold weather so someday I hope to live in the Pacific Northwest or Midwest) My favorite needle size is 4-6 and I just can’t decide if I like a meaty project that takes months (ok, years) or a small project I can finish in a weekend. I really just get full of yearning and excitement when I dream of a new project. It’s like hunger- not unlike after a long day at the beach when you long for warmth, stew and a beer! It’s a full body experience. Not sure how else to describe it.

What is the biggest change you have made in 5 years of business!

I am so glad that I was able to connect with Leslee Fiorella and Isla Corbett, my amazing partners and co-owners who brought together Folk Modern Craft and Cast Away. Partnering allows us to become a full service modern craft shop, the only one in Sonoma County. Working together allowed us to rent a much larger space in the Lee Brothers Building, the first building built in SR after the 1906 earthquake.

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