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Hampton/Shaler

Millvale welcomes McWalker Yarns to its business district

| Monday, April 30, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Cheryl Schubert of Shaler looks for some yarn at McWalker Yarns grand opening in Millvale Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cheryl Schubert of Shaler looks for some yarn at McWalker Yarns grand opening in Millvale Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Owner Amy Elizabeth McCall (left) helps Joette Zarotney of Penn Hills during the grand opening of McWalker Yarns on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Owner Amy Elizabeth McCall (left) helps Joette Zarotney of Penn Hills during the grand opening of McWalker Yarns on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Sandy Purucker (left) and Sue Hanna, both from Shaler, look for some yarn at McWalker Yarns grand opening at 303 Grant St. Millvale on April 21.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Sandy Purucker (left) and Sue Hanna, both from Shaler, look for some yarn at McWalker Yarns grand opening at 303 Grant St. Millvale on April 21.
The newly opened McWalker Yarns shop in Millvale has many different yarns to choose.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
The newly opened McWalker Yarns shop in Millvale has many different yarns to choose.
Amy Elizabeth McCall smiles during the grand opening of her McWalker Yarns shop at 303 Grant St. Millvale, on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Amy Elizabeth McCall smiles during the grand opening of her McWalker Yarns shop at 303 Grant St. Millvale, on Saturday, April 21, 2018.

McWalker Yarns contains an interior of white walls and simple wood accents, magnifying the seemingly endless hues of the Millvale shop's inventory.

Amy Walker McCall, 54, opened the Grant Avenue store April 21. The space holds 3,500 yarn skeins ranging from $6.50 to $35. McCall doesn't believe in carrying yarn that she won't use herself.

“I've made a real effort to have a variety of price points and styles, but a serious focus on U.S.-made, breed-specific yarn,” said the East Liberty resident.

She purchases from local, independent and women-owned businesses, too. McWalker Yarns carries yarn produced from heritage sheep breeds, or traditional rare livestock breeds. Brands hanging from McWalker Yarns' shelves include: Spud & Chloe, Meadowcroft Dyeworks, Seven Sisters Arts, Wandering Wool, Swan's Island Co., Anzula Luxury Fibers and Elemental Affects.

Guests may purchase Millvale-made products like Stitch Party's hand-dyed yarn and Ton Pottery's yarn bowls.

McCall said she will gauge interest about offering courses. She wants to plan some open knit and crochet sessions.

Danielle Spinola, who owns Tupelo Honey Teas, also on Grant, looks forward to collaborating with McCall on the events.

“I'm so excited. Her people are my people — people who knit drink tea,” Spinola said. “It's going to be a great addition. When I first moved in, I told people that I wanted either a fabric or yarn store nearby.”

McCall, a Tioga County native, started knitting when she was 6.

“My grandmother taught me to knit as a way to get me to sit down and be quiet,” McCall said.

“It's like yoga for the mind. It's very meditative. It kind of centers your brain and brings you back over and over again to, OK, next stitch, next stitch, next stitch and really just forces you to relax your thinking.”

McCall didn't always have entrepreneurial inclinations.

She previously worked as a computer programmer prior to earning a law degree from Duquesne University. In addition to working stints at law firms, she pursued her passion for higher education by serving as counsel for Penn State University and Point Park University. She continues to work as Robert Morris University's interim Title IX coordinator.

Deciding to make a career change, she developed her new business plan in November 2017.

“I wanted to put my energy into something that I was differently passionate about, and then an opportunity to do something that I was never sure that I could do. Opening a business is completely new territory for me.”

She decided to open a yarn store when it only took her three hours to finish a business plan for the establishment.

“I represented start-up companies, so I knew some stuff from that and I got the knowledge from being a life-long knitter and I also spin (fibers into yarn) and some things like that. And it was like, oh, this seems obvious.”

She admitted that the closing of area knitting stores Knit One, Knitsburgh and Natural Stitches “absolutely terrifies” her. However, she said that she knows people involved with those businesses and will do things differently.

“Hopefully I have learned some lessons from them, learned from other people's mistakes. I am sure I will make brand new spectacular mistakes of my own, but hopefully there will be some changes as we go forward.”

McCall thinks her grandmother would be thrilled with McWalker Yarns. In fact, McCall chose the business name — which combines her grandmother's surname with McCall's current surname — to pay her tribute.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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