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Mary Smith, Lenn Burkitt and Doris Cooke have been with Hands on Crafts on Main Street in Yarmouth, since it started 20 years ago.
Mary Smith, Lenn Burkitt and Doris Cooke have been with Hands on Crafts on Main Street in Yarmouth, since it started 20 years ago. - Carla Allen

Founding partners still run shop

YARMOUTH - The number of partners may have swelled and dwindled at the Hands on Crafts informal cooperative over the past two decades but three of the originals remain.

One of the dedicated members – Doris Cooke, Mary Smith or Lenn Burkitt – are usually on the premises these days, though Smith (80+ in age) is more limited in her activity due to health reasons.

Twenty years ago, Hands on Crafts opened at 268 Main St., moved upstairs in the Killam Building in 2002 then to 314 Main St. in 2005.

Cooke’s hands are busy as she talks about how the informal cooperative has changed over the years. She’s knitting a cardigan from leftover skeins of yarn for herself.

“When we started the store it was all finished items, which is fine and good when there are tourists in town,” she said.

The store needed something else, however, to extend the season.

 “When we moved here we had more space and we were open year-round so I suggested I bring in yarn,” said Cooke.

She says what makes knitting so appealing is that the items are so useful.  Advice on craftwork is often included in the purchase price.

“You always need socks, mittens, hats and such. I used to sell cross-stitch but you can only sell so much cross-stitch. Once your walls are full and your family’s walls are full, there’s nothing else to do with it,” she said.           

Beads and soap-making supplies were also added to the inventory.

Burkitt, who is well known for his carpentry skills, says the supplies keep the store going. “Doris has developed all three of those things into the best selection in the area. We have people coming from Halifax saying they can’t find yarn and beads like this there. It’s encouraging when they talk that way,” he said.

Burkitt ‘s work draws clients to the store as well, with custom orders and folks looking for houseware-type items like cutting boards, kitchen utensils, picture frames and more.

“If you tell him what it looks like, he can pretty well make it,” said Cooke.

Commissioned items from nearly 60 other artisans fill the shelves and walls in the space, including clothing, hooked rugs, jewelry, bags, wooden bowls and much more.

Pure essential oils are also stocked here at surprisingly low prices.

What does the future hold for the store?

“I have no idea. When the boat stopped it was horrible, absolutely horrible. Sales dropped. “Our future is based largely on the boat,” said Cooke.

They’d like to see a ferry service that landed tourists earlier and say it would make a tremendous difference for them.

Smith says the place is a favourite stop for locals, showing others the attractions in the area.

She’s a familiar sight in the store, sitting at the worktable in back, busy with her latest project. She no longer works the cash register and grumbles good-naturedly that she doesn’t see how the others can consider her as a partner.

 “We grandfathered you in,” laughs Cooke.

“We grandmothered you in,” corrected Burkitt.

“I’ve always been the oldest one, from Day one,” said Smith.

If you Go

Hands on Crafts is open Monday to Saturday, 9 - 5:30

Visit their Facebook Page @ Hands on Crafts

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