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New shop owner learns the yarn business one stitch at a time

By June Mathews

When Sheri Harbison’s flextime CPA position was eliminated in October, she found herself at loose ends. It wasn’t that she didn’t have plenty to do otherwise. As a wife, mother, inveterate crafter, church orchestra flutist and active board member with the Miss Alabama Pageant organization, keeping busy wasn’t a problem.

Regardless, the job loss left a hole in her schedule that Harbison, a longtime resident of Clay, was itching to fill.

A quote from her Facebook profile is revealing: “I just can’t have too many irons in the fire,” it says. But after months of hunting another CPA position, Harbison was ready to give up the search.

“There was nothing out there for somebody at my pay grade and level,” she said, “so I started looking at other options.”

Sheri Harbison
photo by June Mathews

When she heard Trussville’s Yarns Downtown was for sale, Harbison was enthusiastic but cautious. She knew little about crocheting and nothing about knitting, so why would she want a yarn shop?

“It didn’t make sense,” she said.

But Harbison couldn’t shake the feeling that God was leading her in that direction. So she requested a proposal from the shop’s owner, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to at least check things out.

“When she told me how much she wanted, I was like, ‘No way,’” Harbison said. “No matter how I crunched the numbers, I couldn’t see it happening.”

Though husband Joey and 8-year-old son Les were supportive of the purchase, she figured maybe she had misunderstood God and decided to forget about the yarn business. That, however, proved easier said than done.

The next Sunday, Harbison listened as Jeff Gardner, student minister at First Baptist Church Trussville, delivered a sermon on doubt and stepping out on faith. She felt as if she had been hit between the eyes.

“I knew he was preaching to me,” she said, “and I knew I had to ‘step out’ and see what God could do with something I’d assumed was undoable.”

So Harbison again called the owner of the little establishment and explained her dilemma. Much to her surprise, the owner offered to work with her on the price, as well as the financing. Then Harbison and the landlord came to affordable terms on the rent.

“It was handed to me on a silver platter, something that just doesn’t happen,” Harbison said. “There’s no other explanation but that God wants me here.”

Harbison previously worked in retail, serving as business manager for a Birmingham music store for several years. But running a yarn shop comes with different issues. Like, for instance, learning to work with the product she’s selling.

“My grandmother crocheted all the time,” Harbison said. “She made pillowcases, tablecloths and all kinds of things, and I even helped her wind her yarn sometimes. But I never thought about getting her to teach me. So now I’m working to catch up.

“And I know nothing about knitting, so that’s really going to be a challenge.”

But for all her uncertainties about working with yarn, there’s one thing Harbison is sure of.

“Granny would have loved Yarns Downtown,” she said, “and I would have loved having her here to help.”

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