Longtime employee Ciara Zanze has seen sales steadily increase since she took over Sacramento’s Rumpelstiltskin yarn shop at 1021 R St. in May, acquiring it from the owner of 44 years, Linda Urquhart.
The 65-year-old Urquhart told me: “I’m not very good at social media, and a retail store really needs to have someone who is adept at Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and emails. It’s critical. I just felt like the store needed some new, young energy.”
Since retiring, Urquhart stays busy golfing, skiing, walking with the Sacramento Walking Sticks, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and tutoring a couple of elementary schoolchildren for ReadingPartners.com. She’s confident Zanze will have a long future in the business: “Ciara has done just such a great job. Communication was her major in college, and she’s a fabulous knitter and really nice. She has all the good things it takes for retail.”
Zanze, who is 30 years old, was a part-time employee at Rumpelstiltskin for 15 years before she bought the store. It was one of three part-time gigs she had in high school. Urquhart hired her upon the recommendation of store employee Judy Fochs.
Thinking back to when she was hired, Zanze told me: “Knitting was in this boom, and they were really busy. They wanted a cashier, and so Judy, who works here still, said, ‘Oh, I have the perfect girl,’ and they called me. I was like, ‘Sure.’ I came in and after Day 1, I went to a neighbor and said, ‘Teach me how to knit, because this job is not going to work out if you don’t.’ I was so overwhelmed. I learned that night, and I never stopped.”
Zanze continued working at the knitting shop through college at California State University, Monterey Bay, and on the side as she got full-time work at a public engagement firm in Sacramento.
Over the years, she said, she would joke with her then-boyfriend, now-husband Devin Crain about buying the store one day. When Urquhart called and told her that the store was selling, however, it caught her completely off-guard.
“I got off the phone and I just started crying,” Zanze said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ She said it will either sell, or we’ll close. I hope to find a buyer. It was a very brief conversation. I think that was in February.”
Later, Zanze said, Urquhart told her that she should be the one to buy it. After talking to a couple of employees, she went and met with a broker. Then she called her mother, Molly Zanze, and told her: “I just went and did something kind of crazy.”
Two family members believed in Zanze and agreed to back her. She took over operations of the store on June 1 and has since invested a lot of time in researching new brands, cultivating their business, implementing new sales strategies and expanding Rumpelstiltskin’s following on social media.
“Going into a yarn store is kind of like going into Nordstrom – you know most of the brands the store has, but you’re looking for something different and special,” Zanze said. “I’ve been reaching out to a lot of different brands, companies that really scrutinize you before they will sell to you, so they want photos of your store, and they want to talk to you and look at your Facebook page, your Instagram and your website. They want to see if you have brand recognition before they will sell to you. I’ve been working really hard on our Facebook marketing, trying to gain followers, updating our newsletter.”
The work day is much longer for Zanze now, and she’s busy throughout it, she said, but that work is paying off with increased sales. She’s started having shopping parties, where she invites sales reps to bring in sample garments, so people can try on the clothing before buying the knitting kits. She’s also begun organizing knit-alongs.
“A knit-along is where a store will sponsor a project and encourage every customer to knit it together,” Zanze explained. “We pick a pattern and yarn, and we do a drawing. We did that red, white and blue scarf over there as an Olympic knit-along. We did a shopping party before the Opening Ceremony, and then they had until the week after the Closing Ceremony to finish it. They submitted photos on Facebook, and there’s an album on there. We had almost 20 people complete it, and we did a little drawing for a gift certificate.”
Zanze said she continues to knit like crazy, even though she’s busy running the store.
“I love the excitement of seeing something and then making it my own. I might choose a different color or change something in the design. It’s very relaxing, and it’s my excuse to binge-watch Netflix. It’s so rewarding to wear what you made, and there’s nothing better than a pair of hand-knit socks on a cold night. It’s great to go out and have people tell you, ‘Oh, that’s so cute,’ and a lot of times, people can’t believe you made it.”