Yes, it is true that the employees of the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, and the Lion Brand marketing team housed above it, know how to knit or crochet. Contrary to the stereotype, however, the company is not one big knitting circle. Even though the offices on the first floor of 34 W 15th Street in Manhattan were converted to a yarn store for Lion Brand products and their partners four years ago, the brand is still a business, and there is still a business to run.
CEO David Blumenthal had the idea for the Lion Brand Yarn Studio for ten years before it came to fruition, and his pride runs much deeper than just yarn. The company is family-owned and operated, and employees of the company have heard Blumenthal talk about growing up in the company. In its 135th Annversary Year of 2013, Blumenthal still maintains an office in the building with memorabilia from notable milestones within Lion Brand, including a photo of the newest member of the Lion Brand legacy modeling a toddler sweater pattern on his wall.
Textile artist Julie Hone is to credit for the amazing window display that changes four times per year, and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio also allures the customer with its colorful array of yarns along the west wall of the store. There is a yarn sampling wall, where customers can take a small amount of a yarn they would like to try, and make a swatch before purchasing. Many yarns in the Studio are not found in the big-box retail stores where Lion Brand does much of its business, such as silk mohair and baby alpaca, but of course all of their yarns can be found online at LionBrand.com. There is a gathering table in the middle of the studio, and there is a computer for customers to look up a pattern on a full-screen to ensure they are buying the correct amount of yarn.
The Studio has become a destination store for New York tourists, both famous and non-famous. Celebrities have been spotted in the Studio, with a few even posing for photos with staff, but the store is just as much of a neighborhood joint as a spot on the Manhattan landmark map. With the bulk of Lion Brand’s operations being housed across the river in New Jersey, customers feel like they are standing in a non-corporate-behemoth local yarn shop. A monthly Men’s Knit Night, over 150 classes offered in-house yearly, and a different yarn being featured at 15% off every month helps the locals appreciate the sense of community that has been formed by the Studio opening in the neighborhood.
“The Lion Brand Yarn Studio is the brand represented our way,” says Zontee Hou, Marketing Content Editor for the company. The Studio is not just a yarn shop, and Lion Brand is not just a yarn seller. The company is conscious of its impact on the environment, using recycled material in their countertops and low-voltage lights to save energy. They are also supporters of artists, hanging featured artists’ wares in the Studio and working with fine artists such as Nathan Vincent and Ruth Marshall on their creation and expression using Lion Brand products.
Lion Brand also prides itself on its charity work, with a Charity Finder on their website to help customers find charity knits and donation spots in their area. The Vanna’s Choice products also act as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with the brand recently passing $1 million in donations from sales of the line.
While the Lion Brand Yarn Studio has the same family-affair feel as the rest of the company, there have been two noteworthy contributors to its success. Studio Director Patty Lyons, on board since the Studio’s inception, is the head of the education efforts at the Studio, instructing and developing a staff of eight to ensure students have a broad range of instruction topics and methods at their fingertips. Lyons, a Certified Knitting Instructor, was a former Broadway stage manager who left her industry to pursue her passion of the fiber arts as her career, so her dedication lays way beyond just a paycheck.
The other key to success has been the internet and social media. The website, launched in 1998, now boasts over 1 million newsletter subscribers. The company is also active on facebook, Twitter, Ravelry.com, and the Studio has its own website apart from the company site as well. In addition to having a stronghold on their internet presence, Lion Brand has re-committed its enhancement of user enjoyment of yarncraft by offering all of their approximately 5,000 patterns on their website free of charge.
As yarncrafters prefer to touch and feel their way through their materials, the Lion Brand Yarn Studio is a must-see store for any knitter or crocheter swinging by New York for a day. The USA-manufactured lines, such as Kitchen Cotton and Hometown USA, are just two of the yarn lines one will find in the store. Beyond the yarn, customers from all over the world are greeted with color, knowledge, and passion. These qualities are some of many which keeps Lion Brand successful year in and year out.
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