by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
While it’s role in the knitting world may not involve a high-traffic retail outlet, fancy on-site displays or direct customer interaction, over the past seven years Beet Street Yarn Co. in Sheboygan Falls has established itself as a key player in the wholesale distribution of wool and silk yarns to retail shops throughout the United States.
Led by co-owners Kim Harder and Karla Krueger, former owners of Magpie’s Cottage, a knitting store in downtown Sheboygan Falls, the Beet Street Yarn Co. wholesale yarn distributorship has been in operation at 308 Pine St. in downtown Sheboygan Falls since 2014.
As a wholesale yarn distributor with no direct customer access, Beet Street Yarn Co. keeps a relatively low profile in the retail-oriented downtown Sheboygan Falls business district.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean there is a lack of activity for Harder and Krueger’s thriving business.
“Beet Street Yarn Co. is a wholesale distributer of Kauni wool and the LOOM silk yarns,” Krueger said. “Kauni is from Denmark and the LOOM yarns are from Thailand.
“Magpie’s Cottage opened in 2008 and we purchased the distributorship called RYN yarn, from Dawn Slugg of Milwaukee in 2014,” she said. “We sold Magpie’s Cottage in 2015 and in 2016, we renamed RYN Yarn to Beet Street Yarn to update the brand and build a more cohesive image around the new name.”
According to Krueger, Beet Street Yarn Co. distributes head-turning, one-of-kind yarn styles and brands to mainly independently-owned yarn shops throughout the country.
“The yarns that Beet Street distributes are so beautiful and unlike most other yarn available in the U.S.,” Krueger said. “We’ve always loved these yarns and sold them in our shop when we owned it. The distributor was based in Milwaukee, and it was nice to work with a ‘local’ vendor, since most of our vendors for Magpie’s Cottage were from the east and west coasts of the U.S.
“When the previous owner was looking to retire, she contacted us and offered the opportunity to us,” she said. “We just couldn’t turn down the chance to expand our horizons in the yarn world and learn about importing, tax and duty, sales reps, designing patterns, etc. It was a challenge we were very interested in and we said ‘yes’ and took the leap into wholesale distribution.”
Krueger says Beet Street Yarn Co.’s brand of wool is truly a cut above the competition and places it in an enviable position in supplying yarn to its clientele’s stores.
“The wool is unique in it’s unprecedented beautiful colorways, and the silk’s yarn styles and colors are unlike any other yarns in the U.S. market,” Krueger said. “Our main clientele are fibercraft stores, usually individual local yarn shops all over the U.S.
“We don’t sell to chains to protect the small shops,” she said. “These stores purchase from Beet Street directly or from our sales reps who travel to each yarn store and present our products.”
The arrival of COVID-19 has both helped and hurt the yarn industry over the course of the past 10 months.
“COVID-19 has hurt many brick and mortar yarn stores, and the sales reps have had a hard time visiting as many as they usually do in person due to the various restrictions,” Krueger said. “Some reps have tried virtual meetings, but so much of the fiber art business is about touching and feeling.
“On the upside, with more people spending more time at home, there is a resurgence of hobbies, which has brought a increase in sales in some markets,” she said.
Although their retail shop days are behind them, Krueger and Harder are thrilled to own a business based in Sheboygan Falls.
“Sheboygan Falls has always been a great place to have a business,” Krueger said. “The people are so friendly and nice, and even though we no longer have retail customer traffic in our location, we depend on the best postman in the universe to deliver our Danish imports.”
For those looking for a new hobby to occupy their time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Krueger said knitting offers the perfect fit.
“Everyone should start knitting,” Krueger said. “It is a tremendous stress relief for these weird times, and you get to enjoy the item you knit when it’s complete.”
Krueger also stresses the importance of supporting local stores and businesses, especially during through the economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Also, we strongly encourage everyone to shop locally whenever possible,” Krueger said. “It is so important for our communities that we support the small businesses that support our communities. By working together in this way, everyone benefits. It’s so sad to think of our dollars fluttering out of the area whenever an online purchase is made from a nameless, faceless corporation.”
Along with Beet Street Yarn Co., Krueger and Harder also own and operate another downtown Sheboygan Falls-based business.
“Weirdly, Kim and I also own and operate Retail PlanIt, a grocery store design and development business,” Krueger said. “The two business have a common thread of creativity and personalized service. We feel our job is to help other businesses in their success.
“While we’ve worked on hundreds of grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the Midwest, most recently our focus has been on owner/operators of grocery and smaller co-op food markets.,” she said. “Shop small, shop local, shop healthy.”
With COVID-19 has changed their daily operating procedure, Krueger and Harder have remained quite busy throughout 2020 and into 2021.
“We answer the phone any time it rings, and fill orders as they arrive,” Krueger said. “Due to COVID-19, we have been doing most office work at our homes, and working in our building only when filling orders.
“Yarn shops can call us at 920-467-9948,” she said. “We cannot sell directly to the customer, but both Magpie’s Cottage and The Lost Sheep yarn shop in Sheboygan carries our yarn.”
For more information on Beet Street Yarn Co., visit http://www.beetstreetyarn.com