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Mama Fig in Graeagle is Plumas County’s only surviving yarn shop and local knitters seek to make it a cooperative. Photo by Meg Upton

Mama Fig seeks to become cooperative

You can feel the warmth, inspiration and creativity as you walk into the two-room Mama Fig Yarn and Arts Collective shop in Graeagle that Adrienne Anila spent the better part of two years building up.

If you’re a knitter and sometimes even if you aren’t, it’s hard to walk by Noro yarn skeins stacked like saki barrels without wanting to reach out and touch them.

The backroom has two solid walls of cubbies of yarn and all around are consignment arts and crafts that the patron either wants to learn and make themselves or take something home. Not to mention how inviting the couch is to sit down and knit, and the encouragement to stay awhile.

It’s the kind of establishment that loyal customers always want to see thrive and keep going, a place where community can thrive.

But as is often seen in Plumas County, a one-person business is difficult to run seven days a week.

In the final weeks of 2019, Anila sent out an email to her customer base to inform them that to keep going, Mama Fig was going to have to make some changes. She offered up the idea to make this communal spot in Graeagle a collective rather than a sole proprietor business.

On Jan. 5, seven fans of the shop met in the backroom on that same comfy couch, along with a few more by video and phone to begin discussing what that could look like going forward.

Mama Fig needs to take on partners. The goal is keeping the store open amongst people who find value in keeping the only yarn shop in Plumas County open,” said Anila.

Immediately the group realized in order for it to work as a co-op, the membership would have to go beyond the 13 people originally responding they were interested to the email.

They are interested in keeping Plumas County’s only remaining yarn shop open under a group-ownership structure.

So they are putting it out to the public to see if more people would like to join a cooperative.

We are looking for expressions of interest from knitters, artists and other textile artists who would like to be part of an organized art and yarn organization in Graeagle,” said meeting organizer Susie Gardner. Although some who have expressed interest already live in other states and counties.

“We’re considering an LLC or cooperative structure made up of local part- and full-time owners, all of whom would share operational responsibilityand run the store,” said Gardner.

The vision for such a store might encompass more than Mama Fig was able to do as a sole proprietor. Bringing in more crafters, more artisans and more classes were some of the ideas floated Jan. 5.

The women at the initial meeting each took on tasks to research what it will take. Anila also provided a detailed list of all the things she did to keep the store afloat by herself. The list was amazing and daunting for one person, the women agreed.

There will be a meeting Sunday, Jan. 26, at the shop in Graeagle at 9 a.m. to discuss moving forward with the plan.

The plan for Mama Fig is open to whoever joins the cooperative. The group stresses that one does not need to be a knitter yet — or even a good knitter. All that can be taught. One should probably be interested in textiles, of course. Likely in going forward the shop would encompass other crafts and artisan work as well.

We are looking for people who can contribute time (running the business and working in the shop), invest financially (from $1,000 upward), provide expertise (knitting, yarn buying, bookkeeping, marketing/social media, event planning, technology and legal),” said Gardner.

Only being able to do a couple of these things is also okay with the group.

Readers who are interested in being involved should know that work will start almost immediately, as the group needs to form a board and management team if this cooperative is to viable. One need not actually live in Plumas County to participate. Meetings are held in person and non-locals participate by internet video.

Financial investments will likely be necessary in the spring.

Anyone interested in helping form this fiber arts cooperative is asked to send their name, email, phone, location and how they would like to participate to Debbie Bliss at [email protected] who has taken on the role of contact person for the group.

For more information visit loc8nearme.com/california/graeagle/mama-fig-yarn-and-art-collective/5514709/

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