A LOVE of crafts – particularly knitting and crochet – was behind Lynda Sibbald’s decision 18 years ago to take over the Mornington Wool Centre, which had been a feature of the town since 1971.
Business grew steadily and she found it necessary to move to new premises in Yuilles Rd, Mornington, to cater for the rise in demand.
Now this “hidden gem” – tucked in between a plumbers’ supply and power tool outlets – is able to take whole bus tours, prams, walkers and wheelchairs. It offers loads more room to display stock and samples and the huge glass-fronted class room can hold a variety of classes.
Business is good and Ms Sibbald employs six part-time staff.
But this latest chapter in its successful history nearly didn’t happen: Ms Sibbald takes up the story …
“Business has been ticking along nicely with a steady stream of dedicated knitters and patch workers.
“We had been affected by the slowing down of retail spending due to outside economic factors, like a lot of other retailers, but nothing drastic until a proposed major jump in the rent almost forced us to close.
“Luckily, we have been able to renegotiate it back to a reasonable level and, with ongoing support from our loyal customers, we will be trading for many more years.”
Friend and colleague Deb Krueger said the community was “up in arms when the word of the impending closure went out, as the shop is unique in the diversity of goods and services on offer”.
“Thankfully, common sense prevailed and an agreed 4 per cent increase has allowed the centre to continue trading – much to the delight of patrons.”
As a single mum of three children living in Mornington, Ms Sibbald bought the wool shop in The Mall, Main St, in 1998.
“I went into the business with no previous retail experience – just my love of craft, and, particularly, knitting and crochet. After having the business for a number of years I was approached by a teacher who had been working at Embroidery is U, Frankston, which was closing and she was looking for another place to teach.
“I had been thinking of expanding in some way so I rented a small shop in Yuilles Rd and began trading as Mornington Embroidery Centre. After a period we found out that Patchwork on the Peninsula was closing so we bought much of their stock and added this line to the embroidery store.
“Both stores became rather full of stock as we expanded the ranges and volume of products so we searched around and found the present location at 2/68 Yuilles Rd, Mornington.
“It has become quite the hidden gem as it is tucked in between a plumbers’ supply and power tool outlets and looks fairly innocuous from the outside but, when customers walk in for the first time, we often hear a few ‘wows’.
Yuilles Rd was ideal because of its proximity to the Nepean Hwy and Tyabb Rd and for the space it offers.
“We have a huge variety of customers – from elderly ladies who have knitted all their lives – to young adults who often visited the shop with their mothers when they were children.
“We have a few male customers who have discovered the therapeutic value of knitting and it is interesting to see the projects they work on.
“Women enjoy the classes as a social outlet, as well as learning new skills and techniques, and often continue coming to class to maintain the friendships they have built with other students.”
Ms Sibbald said she had had the business so many years now it “feels like a second home”.
“Working six days a week limits my spare time, but I still get many projects completed each year.
“It is wonderful when a customer brings in a completed project and thanks us for the help and advice received. Even after all these years I love seeing the new ranges and the beautiful colours and textures and the enjoyment that a customer gets out of finding a fabric or yarn that inspires them as much as it inspires me.
“There are always new things to learn and new colours to work with. As a girlfriend said when I first bought the business: “That’s not going to be work for you – that’s going to be play”.