Young Couple Re-Opens Popular Richmond Yarn Shop

By Louise Ronald

When Richmond High School graduate Samantha Miller and Seton Catholic High School graduate John Purcell returned to Richmond after college, they didn’t expect to have their own business in their own building by their mid-20s.
But when the opportunity arose to purchase the Unwind Yarn Shop when former owner Vicki Hair moved to California, Miller said she knew it “was a really good fit.”
The couple re-opened the downtown knitting supply store Wednesday.
“Lots of people are very excited to be able to get in and replenish their yarn stashes,” Purcell said Monday during preparations for the re-opening.
Evidently, he was right. There were several people waiting to shop when the doors opened Wednesday.
Miller has a degree in fibers and textile design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. During her time at the Georgia college, she often bought materials for projects from Unwind — especially wool from area alpaca farms.
“My favorite fiber is alpaca,” she said, adding, “I wanted to be able to support businesses in my home town.”

 

 

Miller came back to Richmond planning to focus on starting a business in design and selling her homemade products. Those dreams expanded when she heard about the yarn shop.Purcell studied biochemistry and molecular biology at La Salle University in Pennsylvania. He came back to Richmond and was working in construction with his father at Purcell Construction when he met Miller.
“She taught me to knit and from there we jokingly discussed buying the yarn shop. ... It became more than a joke pretty quickly,” Purcell said.
Purcell and Miller pulled together what financing they could, then applied to Richmond’s revolving loan fund, which provides gap financing to make up the difference when personal investment and bank loans are not enough to make a project happen.
The fund is created by contributions from local companies that receive tax abatements, explains Tony Foster, the city’s director of metropolitan development. As Purcell and Miller pay off their loan, the money will go back into the fund for future businesses.
“We hadn’t planned to go into something like this,” said Miller, “but the opportunity presented itself. The revolving loan fund was what made that actually possible.”
She and Purcell became owners of the business and the building in mid-December and have spent most of the last month getting ready for the reopening.
“Right now, the main push is just to be able to get the store open,” Miller said Monday, but the couple has big plans for the future.
First is renovating the third floor of the building to become their residence. They have applied for an Urban Enterprise Association grant to improve the building’s façade. They also plan to expand the business itself.
They hope to make the second floor into a classroom and studio space. Knitting groups should restart soon, along with group and one-on-one instruction in knitting and crochet. Miller plans to branch into other fiber arts over time, including weaving, spinning and felting. She also plans gallery space for handmade fiber products and artwork.
Miller is the shop’s only employee, but that could change in the future. Purcell works full-time at the Cycling and Fitness Warehouse, managing the bike shop and doing bike repairs.
He appreciates the help he and Miller have received from Center City Development Corporation and the Historic Depot District Association.
“All the local shop owners have been very supportive and very gracious,” he said.