The Columbia Yarn Store That Knit Two Families Together
For six years, All About Yarn has been a welcome shop for two mothers, their special-needs daughters and a community of crafting customers.
Several women are seated on couches inside a yarn store. As they knit, they tell the story of how the shop came to be.
"Once upon a time there were two moms with two daughters," says one customer.
"And the two daughters were in Special Olympics and were in high school," says another customer.
And then the two owners – Karen Thiem and Cindy Jones – tell the rest. They tell the story of how their lives were separate threads that came together, how All About Yarn provided a place for two of their loves: their daughters and their crafts.
Before they were business partners, they were, indeed, two mothers watching from the stands as their daughters played Special Olympics basketball. Jones was making socks. Thiem was curious.
"I said, 'What are you doing? How do you do that?' " Thiem recalls. "I'd never made anything complicated. I knew how to knit and crochet."
"Then I went on vacation and decided that my retirement job was that I was going to open a studio down in North Carolina and sell knitting and needlework," Jones adds.
Thiem's response was, in essence: Why not here? Why not now?
They each had good reasons to go for it: daughters Amanda Thiem and Miglena Jones. Both now work at the store, located off Route 108 in Columbia, about half a mile west of Howard High School.
"There really are not employment opportunities for the girls," Cindy Jones says.
Amanda, 23, has intractable epilepsy, and the seizures caused brain damage.
"Even though she has a high-school diploma, we got that for her. She had a lot of help to get it," Karen Thiem says. "It was up to me to find something to take care of her, so that she could still work and be a productive member of society."
Miglena, 24, has a number of special needs. "She'll never be able to live on her own," Cindy Jones says.
"I had gone and looked at day programs [because] they'd exit school at 21," Jones says. "I didn't feel there was enough stimulation for them there. Karen is with them during the day and does a great job of finding lots of different things for them to do all day."
The girls get paid a stipend to work as cashiers, label merchandise and straighten the shop. They knit, too, of course.
"The yarn shop is good for the girls," Thiem says. "They've grown tremendously: self-confidence, self-esteem. Their social skills have improved because of those two things. They've progressed."
The shop is open six days a week, with Karen Thiem there most of the time. Cindy Jones teaches classes there when she's off from her full-time job in the Howard County Library system.
"We're not making any money," Thiem says, then laughs. "We knew we weren't going to get rich."
"I knew that going in," Jones says. "Family retail isn't how you make money."
"Every cent we make goes back into the business," Thiem adds.
For the two mothers, the store has created a community of repeat customers, and, of course, a workplace for the past six years for their daughters.
Miglena Jones is asked what she likes about working at All About Yarn. Cindy Jones prompts her:
"Is it being with Amanda?" Cindy asks.
Miglena turns and looks at her mother.
"It's being with you," she says.
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