The proverbial intersection of Independent Book Store Day and Local Yarn Store Day is in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood, at North Lombard Street and Chicago Avenue.
That’s where Two Rivers Bookstore and Weird Sisters Yarn Shop set up shop under the same roof.
The joint venture of Christine Longmuir, who owns the bookstore, and Fuchsia Troutman, who owns the yarn store, stemmed from a love of the St. Johns community and the maker culture in the neighborhood. Longmuir initially began selling books along Lombard as a pop up behind a coffee shop. Troutman later joined her in a very Portlandesque manner. “A pop up inside of a pop up behind a coffee shop,” Troutman joked Saturday. “I don’t think either of us could have done it alone, we really needed each other to make it a reality.”
In 2019, the two independent, women-owned businesses decided to join forces and moved into a building where they could share space. And they have been celebrating annually in their store ever since. “It’s really a celebration of what we do,” Troutman said Saturday, which marked both Independent Book Store and Local Yarn Store days.
“It’s a great day for our core customers to come in, these people who have been there and supported us through the pandemic,” she added. “They are the people who are really truly lovers of books and yarn – together.”
Through the pandemic, the business owners said they spent a lot of time assessing how to best work with the community they loved and that loved them. At times that meant trying to shift conversations and sales online, at other times it meant getting creative with events in a digital world.
“We did a lot of pivoting,” said Longmuir. “I hate that word, but it felt like every day we were like, ‘What’s our new plan?’ during the pandemic.”
Because the nature of their store was community-based with classes and events, both Longmuir and Troutman agreed that there was a struggle to make an online community in a meaningful way despite having pandemic-friendly wares like books and craft materials. Two Rivers and Weird Sisters also sell everything from handmade ukuleles and art prints to inclusive books for all ages to hand dyed small-batch yarn for people at all craft levels.
“One of the things about books and yarn is that they’re sort of pandemic proof,” said Troutman. “You know you’re stuck at home, what can you do? You can knit, you can crochet, you can read books. We didn’t have a strong online presence, we really had to get that together during the pandemic and that helped a lot to keep us afloat.
“But the true thing that we do is this in-person community, so being able to do events again and see people face to face?” she continued. “That’s invaluable.”
On Saturday, people strolling down the construction-laden North Lombard Street stopped into the store to peruse and chat. The space isn’t large, but it remained busy. Most of the customers were greeted by name by both Longmuir and Troutman, regardless of whether their purchase involved books or yarn, though many customers bought a little of both.
“I just think it’s unique in general, how our partnership came about,” Longmuir said. “Two people who live here, love St. Johns – it’s kind of weird how it worked out great.”