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Store for knitters shifts to new owner, member-supported financing model

Prairie Yarns, 2607 S. University Drive, Fargo, will close Friday, April 21, and reopen in early June as Prairie Yarns Fiber Center with new ownership and a new financing model. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO—An arts and crafts store and education center for knitters will close this week, but not for long as it changes to a new member-supported business model.

Prairie Yarns, 2607 S. University Drive, will close at 5 p.m. Friday, April 21, and reopen in early June as Prairie Yarns Fiber Arts Center.

The store, which opened in October 2007, began asking locals on April 1 to support the sale to new owner Verna Kragnes by paying for one- or two-year memberships for $95 or $165, or by making a financial investment. As of noon on Thursday, April 20, 176 people became members, raising $23,530, Kragnes said.

While the pitch said the financing model would be similar to community supported agriculture, or CSA, current owner Keatha McLeod said it's more like a "Costco model" that offers discounts to members without giving them a stake in the business. A membership won't be required to shop, she said.

She's ready to sell the store to focus on time with her family, but she said she's glad Kragnes can keep it in town.

"It isn't just customers," she said. "They're an interesting breed of cats."

Kragnes, a former CSA farmer in Wisconsin, said the financing plan is similar to a CSA model as farmers ask people to invest in the spring, enabling them to grow crops that are shared with members. Excess produce can be sold at markets or stores, she said.

"The original model that we put forward was to see if with member support we could help make possible something that up to this point no one had felt was possible to do by themselves," she said.

Kragnes plans to add more classes, as well as a free lending library of knitting books and equipment available to rent, when the store reopens. She also wants to emphasize consciousness about locally or regionally made yarns.

She said customers have stepped up in a way she had hoped for, but couldn't have expected.

"I could sense that there was this kind of community that would be willing to step in, but this is what's happened," she said. "It's just so amazing."

To keep up with the store, visit www.prairieyarns.com.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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