Yarn on Front owner shares how she adapted, overcame pandemic squeeze

DOWAGIAC — A local business woman was this week’s special guest for the Dowagiac Rotary Club.

June Nemeth of Yarn on Front, 122 S. Front St., spoke with the club at Front Street Crossing about how her yarn business has fared throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like everyone else, we closed during the shutdown,” Nemeth said. “It was really hard in the beginning. I spent a week at home pretty sad and depressed. ‘What am I going to do after this?’ I was back in my shop every day. We weren’t open, but I decided that I had to do something.”

Nemeth started sending emails and announced on social media that she would deliver knitting and crocheting products for interested parties.

“I started getting inundated with messages on Facebook and texts to my cell phone,” Nemeth said. “All of a sudden I was doing business through my devices. What I was doing was transitioning from a brick and mortar business, which I am, to more of a ‘click and order’. People were finding me even though I don’t have a website. It was never my intent to sell online. I had to find ways to sell my product without somebody coming in the store.”

While her store remained closed, Nemeth would schedule appointments to take customers on virtual shopping trips in the store.

“I was doing personal shopping live on Facebook, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger. Customers would schedule appointments, and it’ll be their time to face time live, and I’d take them around the shop and show them different yarns and colors. They tell me what they’re trying to do and that’s how we would do business. I would deliver the yarn, or if they were too far, I’d ship it out to them.”

Adapting to the pandemic helped Yarn on Front survive and thrive. According to Nemeth, sales increased by 18 percent last year. She thanked the crafting community for its continued support.

“It is a strong community,” she said. “People went above and beyond to buy gift certificates for the future, and they did that continually throughout the shutdown. To this day most of those have not even redeemed their gift certificates. I remember on the day we closed I had a girl call and she bought a $500 gift certificate and I was so touched by that and so emotional that I couldn’t finish the transaction. I had all my staff working that day and they had to take over the call. I think about it now and I still get emotional. That is how it’s been all along. The fiber community is amazing.”

In addition to selling products, Yarn on Front also conducts knitting and crocheting lessons. Nemeth said that the pandemic has encouraged people to learn how to do crafts.

“If you’ve got to sit home, what are you gonna do,” she said. “‘Remember how you used to knit when you were in fourth grade?  Well now you’re gonna give it a try again.’ We had a lot of new people come back into the crafts and a lot of new people interested in learning.”

Nemeth’s story earned praise from Rotary members in attendance.

“I think this represents one of the great things about our country,” said Rotarian Dick Judd. “Adapt and change. The entrepreneurship of somebody like yourself is impressive. It’s been wonderful to hear from you and what you’ve done.”

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