The proverbial intersection of Independent Book Store Day and Local Yarn Store Day is in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland at North Lombard Street and Chicago Avenue.
The joint venture of Christine Longmuir, owner of the bookstore, and Fuchsia Troutman, owner of the yarn store, was born out of a love of the St. Johns community and the neighborhood’s maker culture. Longmuir first started selling books alongside Lombard as a pop-up behind a cafe. Troutman later joined her in a very Portlandesque fashion. “A pop-up inside a pop-up behind a cafe,” Troutman joked on Saturday. “I don’t think any of us could have done it alone, we really needed each other to make it happen.”
In 2019, the two independent women-owned businesses decided to join forces and moved into a building where they could share spaces. And since then they celebrate every year in their store. “It’s really a celebration of what we do,” Troutman said on Saturday, which marked both independent bookstore and local yarn store days.
“It’s a great day for our key customers to come in, those people who have been there and supported us during the pandemic,” she added. “These are the people who are really, really in love with the books and the thread – together.”
During the pandemic, business owners said they spent a lot of time evaluating how best to work with the community they love and who love them. Sometimes that meant trying to move conversations and sales online, other times it meant getting creative with events in a digital world.
“We did a lot of pivots,” Longmuir said. “I hate that word, but I 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, Longmuir and Troutman agreed that there was a struggle to create an online community in a meaningful way despite the presence of pandemic-friendly products 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 small-lot hand-dyed yarn for people of all skill levels. ‘craft.
“One of the things about books and threads is that they’re kind of pandemic-proof,” Troutman said. “You know you’re stuck at home, what can you do? You know how to knit, crochet, read books. We didn’t have a strong online presence, we really had to pull it all together during the pandemic and it helped a lot to keep us afloat.
“But the real thing we’re doing is this in-person community, so being able to re-do events and see people face-to-face?” she continued. “It’s priceless.”
On Saturday, people strolling down construction-laden North Lombard Street stopped by the store to browse and chat. The space isn’t big, but it kept busy. Most customers were greeted by name by both Longmuir and Troutman, whether their purchase involved books or yarn, although many customers purchased a bit of both.
“I just think it’s unique in general, how our partnership was born,” Longmuir said. “Two people who live here love St. Johns – it’s kind of weird how well it worked out.”