February 16, 2017
Crafters in the Upper Valley region can now head to the craft store Michaels, which opened at the former Books-a-Million location on Route 12A.
Michaels started planning the move in 2015 when it was looking for employees to staff its West Lebanon store.
Jennifer Dropski is the Michaels district manager for the New Hampshire area. She said a soft opening was held on Feb. 3, but its grand opening will be Feb. 12. She said the store will hire between 30 and 50 people to address the grand opening with 25 to 30 employees remaining after that.
The closest Michaels stores were in Concord, Manchester, Keene and Rutland. Dropski said the company looked at communities who have a love for crafting. She said New Hampshire has a ton of people who love to craft.
While many people felt Michaels would open before Christmas, they started to question what was going on when the work was halted on the 20,000-square foot building. Dropski said it wasn't in a hurry to open its store before the holidays, adding the company wanted to take its time.
Michaels is known as one of the biggest specialty providers of crafts, arts, floral, framing, seasonal merchandise for the do-it-yourself home decorator and hobbyist. It has more than 1,350 stores across the nation and Canada.
The company is entering a market where Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts has been operating. It's also competing with Wal-Mart, Hobbies 'N' Stuff, and Valley Art Supplies.
There Is Some Bad News... For Knitters
For knitters who like using fine yarns, there's another loss for the area with Country Woolens shutting down after over 50 years. According to the owner Deborah Hodges, internet sales is the biggest reason for the move as well as the increasing vandalism occurring at her Mechanic Street property. She said there's graffiti and constant vandalism, plus Internet stores like Amazon and others have put them in a bind.
Hodges was the latest small Lebanon-Hanover area retailer to go out of the business because of customers' desire to purchase their products online. There have been over a dozen stores that have closed due to the rising internet sales. Hodges' yarn store is the second Upper Valley store to close; the first was White River Yarns in the White River Junction area, which closed in November.
Hodges, who used to work at Dartmouth College as an administrator, owned the store since 1999. She said the previous owners had worked for 30 to 40 years before she attained it. Hodges held knitting classes at her store - something she may continue at another location if there is deemed a need for it.
Kim MacMillan, a West Lebanon resident, said Hodges was a fixture in the community. MacMillan creates Waldorf dolls she sells online via the Etsy.com marketplace. She said the two yarn stores that recently closed were highly valuable and needed. She said chain stores don't offer the quality yarns, knitting materials or natural fibers the independent stores do.
With White River Yarns and Country Woolens closing, this leaves just the following stores to be open:
Hodgepodge Yarns & Fibers in Newport
The Whipple Tree in Woodstock
Northern Nights Yarn Store in Norwich
A fiber shop, owned by the Aker Fiber Farm, was opened in Enfield - it sells yarns made from English Angora bunny wool and Corriedale sheep wool.