Friday, February 22, 2013

An Interview with Tavy and Assaf of The Yarn Company

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find the web site for the store here

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?

It was the funniest thing. We got the general email saying that the old owners, Julie and Jordana were leaving the business and that the fate of the store was unclear. Within 45 minutes I had made it from NJ to the store, and into Julie’s Office, to say: I am buying the store - lets shake on it and sign. NO time to think or get cold feet. It must have been burning inside me for a long time. My brother surprised me that evening by telling me he wanted to be my partner. It was too perfect to be true! We have been trying to do something together for a long time. This was also perfect opportunity to bring out his design background (he studied architecture at some point).
How long have you been in business? 
About a year and a half now.
Do you and your brother run the store by yourselves or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop? 
We have the most amazing staff. Period. We have the brilliant Irina Poludnenko whose designs always leave me breathless. She is at the store a few times a week, and also creates the most dazzling house patterns and teaches for us. We are really fortunate To add to the incredible teaching lineup we have Donna Panner of Spin City NY fame, David von Buskirk from the weaving department at FIT, and other incredible teachers. We wanted to create a think tank environment, borrowed from my background in academia. And the staff on the floor? Honestly  the most vibrant and sweet you will every find. 

Tell us a little about how you and your brother make your partnership in the business successful.

We have been wanting to go into business together for a long time. We tried several things that neither of us was terribly passionate about. This one just fell into our laps. It combined our skills beautifully. My brother is a lawyer, a designer, a real creative force, but at the same time, he has a very practical mind. That’s a crazy wonderful combination. Somehow that complements my fuzzy-professor—brain beautifully. We have no other siblings and have always been very close. He is (I hate to say it) a lot younger than I am so we never really had a competitive sibling stage. We were always in different stages of childhood while growing up. I think that helps a lot. We have a lot of respect for each other’s ideas and I believe that empowers us as partners. 

Please tell us about the history of your shop.
So many famous designers and other well known people in the industry have worked at TYC at some point or another. The store has been around for 34 years, and has had various owners. At one point and for a long time, it clearly was the gem of the city, and we hope that our many efforts are steadily working to restore it’s golden status. 

Do you have a mentor? 

No, but several people really helped us incredibly and acted like guardian angels in the industry. One of them was Stacy Charles. He took us under his wing and held our hand and taught us so much. He has helped every step of the way. Trisha Malcolm along with everyone at SoHo Publishing guided us and were always on hand with stellar advice. Jay Opperman at KFI is a wonderful person, and he really helped us as well.  Mickey Landau was there for us all along, and Irina? Well: Irina, Irina, Irina!

In terms of inspiration? Well, our mother and grandmother, are mentoring us in the background daily. They aren’t around anymore, but in our heads they sure are. Boy would they be happy. We grew up with sewing machines and knitting needles everywhere. And Burda! But we also grew up with design in general. On the weekends our mother would take us to the design center, and there were always the newest design mags on the coffee tables.

We were also clearly inspired by the sights and sounds around us. Growing up in SoHo in the 70’s shaped our vision, our sense of color and style, and our imaginations.   

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?

No, but I have been teaching business at universities for over two decades. My brother was an MBA student and also took some PhD classes in Accounting before going to law school.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Our web-store presence is huge, all across the world,. We ship all over the globe, daily. Our Facebook fans have gone from zero to 27,000 in 18 months. There are no words for what the Internet has done for us. It has been a real joy, to communicate daily with a worldwide community of knitters, crocheters, spinners, quilters, jewelry makers and other people interested in artisan-ship and fashion. 

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