(Katie Ketchum, photo by Gwen Shoemaker Photography)
Katie Ketchum, Central Oregonian, opened her Wool Town yarn store in downtown Bend mid-year, capturing the High Desert spirit of adventure and authenticity. She says, “I am passionate about my Central Oregon roots and about high quality wool fibers and knitting.”
Ketchum grew up in Moro, OR and after graduating from the University of Southern Oregon, went to work in Ashland’s quality yarn shop, The Websters. Spending eight years there enmeshed with yarns, needles and knitting classes. The local knitting community bonded her with the knowledge of natural fibers, the adaptability of wool to comfort and warm humans, and the centuries’ old craft of knitting and weaving.
The store’s name, Wool Town, has historic significance in England. East of London there is the Wool Towns Region, with Sudbury a principal village. From the 12th to the 15th Centuries the region manufactured and exported woven cloth to Europe and beyond.
Hilary Rothert, a seasoned knitter, born in England and early Wool Town customer says, “Katie has excellent quality fibers and presents a welcoming shop with cozy eye appeal. I’ve knitted for years and Wool Town offers me new beautiful yarns.”
Following her yarn store experience, Ketchum worked at the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, Oregon. The ranch is 145 years old and the only ranch in Oregon recognized as a National Historical District. The Ranch provided the wool for Ralph Lauren to design and make the 2014 Winter Olympic USA Sweater for the opening ceremonies.
Specializing in natural, high-quality fibers, Wool Town carries a wide range of local, regional and international brands for knitting, macramé, crochet, needle felting or weaving projects. Ketchum holds classes for those just learning to knit and events that feature new wool fibers and accessories.
Wool Town will host two classes before Christmas. Ketchum reports Central Oregon has an active yarn community; and she is exploring with retail store members of the community a “Central Oregon Yarn Crawl,” to attract out of town and out of state knitters to experience first hand the quality of wool fibers from ranch to store shelf.
Ketchum is guardedly optimistic about her business, located in the heart of Bend, with its consistent foot traffic and word of mouth within the knitting community. She hasn’t had to advertise to date and is expecting her first wintertime—when woolen outerwear is sought and gifted—to bump up her sales.
She says, “Having my own business is hard work but I am thoroughly enjoying the start-up phase, with creating my own brand, working with products I respect and helping others to fall in love with knitting, a centuries’ old craft which is organically relevant for what Central Oregon is about.”
Ketchum believes that entrepreneurs should pursuit the business goals that reflect their passion. She adds that they should be awake to opportunities, such as registering with SCORE-Central Oregon (www.centraloregon.score.org)
“My family, SCORE, friends and business associates have been totally supportive—another reason for me to grow and blossom from my Central Oregon roots,” says Ketchum.