Revisiting Seaport Yarn, and a meditation on LYS

Two balls of Ornaghi Filati Luna Park Sock Yarn.

Two years ago, (also in March), I went to visit Seaport Yarn, one of the weirdest yarn stores in Manhattan. Recently, I had heard that the store moved, and this weekend, since I was going near City Hall anyway, I took a visit to its new location. (It’s still in the Financial District, just in a different building.)

Okay, the store is still weird, and continues to be in an odd office space:

(I looked at the photos from two years ago and I was carrying that same handbag, which is funny because I actually don’t use it that often, as it’s quite heavy.) Anyway, that’s me pointing to a paper sign that says: “Seaport Yarn, Fifth Floor.”

The new layout is much more open, and isn’t as kookily Being John Malkovitch-y as the old one. The owner continues to run her marketing business out of the same office though.

But it’s still hidden–it’s in that 181 building, surrounded by hawkers selling knock-off pashminas.

This brings me to a question I’ve been thinking about. Do you feel like you have to buy yarn at your local yarn store if you visit? What if you linger for more than a certain time? What if you’re the only person in the store? I do. If there’s a lot of people, or if I’m just in and out, then I don’t feel obligated to get anything, but if it’s just me (and Adam), and/or I browse for longer then 10-15 minutes, and especially if I’ve chatted with the store owner, I feel I have to buy something. (Hence the sock yarn in the top photo.)

It’s tricky, because I try not to have too much stash (in fact, I am aiming for zero stash), and it would be fiscally irresponsible for my own budget if I always bought something. (I’m not even going to discuss the enviromental and global pros and cons of consuming something you don’t need.) But small businesses do have a certain charm. I used to be less swayed by this argument–buy local to keep your neighborhood’s character–simply because I felt like businesses of any size needed to figure out how to compete with big box stores, instead of soliciting pity purchases from its customers. But with the growth of the internet, it’s something that’s become more and more of an issue.

We went to brunch on the Upper West Side today, and I was all grouchy thinking about the loss of Murder Ink. I never shopped there that much, but it was a GREAT bookstore, and it always sold a ton of Ellery Queens* (unlike *cough*The Strand,*cough* which is too highfalutin to ever have more than a couple of Agatha Christies on a sad little cart somewhere). It WAS something that contributed to the character of the neighborhood, and I was thinking about how if a murder mystery bookstore couldn’t survive on the Upper West Side, the heartland of cat-owning, tea-drinking, Agatha Christie-reading old ladies**, where can something like that thrive?

*If you like murder mysteries, I highly reccomend Ellery Queen. That said, one of my friends considers the detective “too smug,” so he’s not everyone’s taste.

** Totally me. I don’t own a cat or live on UWS, but I say that with respect. And as a former resident of Morningside Heights, I feel I know the UWS enough to comment on its change.

I grew up, like so many people, reading these kids books set in New York*** and watching Woody Allen movies (my dad is a big Woody fan, though I am on the fence myself), and wanting to live in that New York, a New York of the 1960s and 1970s–a New York that is now changed. I’m not so curmudgeonly that I think the change is always for the worse, and it’s easy to romanticize something that’s gone. (When I lived here in the 1970s with my parents, there was no air-conditioning in the subway, something that I think is Totally Insane.)

***E.g. The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline

I’ve always had an almost automatic dislike of the jingoism of “Buy American” or the righteous yuppieness of “Buy Local,” but as I age into a middle-aged crank, I’ve begun to understand the emotions behind these slogans more. Without local yarn stores and other small businesses, neighborhoods do lose some of their flavor. Anyway. I have more to say on this topic, including some supportive thoughts about the opposing point of view, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts about whether you shop at your LYS or online and why.

Oh, and the new Seaport Yarn info:

Address: 181 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Phone: 1-800-347-2662



Posted in the Business, Uncategorized, Yarn Stores at March 30th, 2008. Trackback URI: trackback

2 Responses to “Revisiting Seaport Yarn, and a meditation on LYS”

  1. March 31st, 2008 at 1:33 pm #Adam

    Yeah. I felt like you needed to buy something when we were in Seaport. Just because you chatted with the folks, took some time, and because I got nice and comfortable on the “boyfriend/husband couch,” rustling my newspaper while the owner was (I think) trying to do market-research work in the office part of the store.

  2. April 1st, 2008 at 10:24 pm #Grace

    I think the obligation is part of their clever business model. I also try to have something very specific in mind if engaged in conversation…. that way I can claim/act like I haven’t found it despite looking very carefully. You made a great choice though… love the candy colors. I think my sock yarn stash is WAY too large given how little I like to knit socks… but it’s too hard to resist pretty sock yarn.