Shirley’s has been dispensing yarn, advice for 45 years

It’s been 45 years since Shirley’s Yarns Crafts and Gifts in Hancock has been supplying needles, yarn and much guidance to crafters as well stocking homemade fudge and one-of-a-kind gifts. Pictured are (top, left): Laurie McDevitt, Alicia Thomas, Kiana Moran and store founder Shirley Jones.

When most people celebrate their birthdays, they receive gifts.

Shirley’s Yarns Crafts & Gifts earlier this year celebrated its 45th birthday by giving gifts and greatly reducing its prices.

“You only turn 45 once,” said Alicia Thomas, an employee at the go-to-shop for yarn, crafts, gifts, décor and more on Route 1 in Hancock.

The story of Shirley’s Yarns Crafts & Gifts began 45 years ago when Shirley Jones, an avid knitter, was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t find quality yarn in the area.

Jones decided to open her own yarn shop.

Her husband, Dick Jones, was busy selling mobile homes on Route 1 and offered to give her a little space in his office building to open what they both thought would be a small business.

And then, as her business grew and grew, he added onto the space.

Today it is a substantial year-round business that carries much more than yarn.

On any given day, customers can find cake decorations, games, puzzles, toys, baby shower gifts, fudge, jams and jellies, books by local authors for adults and children, as well as supplies to create needlepoint, cross stitch and latch hook rugs.

Oh, and lots of cubicles and racks filled with yarn.

“It’s just a family business,” says Shirley and Dick’s daughter, Kiana Moran, adding that Alicia Thomas is indispensable in running the business and in thinking of novel ideas.

The Joneses, both natural entrepreneurs, are both in their 80s and are frequent visitors to the shop.

After years in the mobile home business, Dick fulfilled a lifelong dream and opened Hot Diggity Dog across Route 1 from the yarn shop. For 13 years he operated the very successful roadside stand.

Kiana and her husband, Chuck Moran, married right out of high school and moved away from home to raise racehorses for breeders on the West Coast.

But a few years after their daughter, Melody, was born they decided they wanted to raise her in Maine and came home.

Moran started working at the shop and found it a natural fit.

“I like to talk to people,” she said. “I like to help people.”

She pitched in with bookkeeping and generally anything else that was needed.

Alicia Thomas is injecting new ideas into the business.

It was she who suggested they clear out the large room at the rear that was filled with sale items and begin offering classes.

Now, at any one time, Shirley’s has up to 18 students at a time taking classes in knitting, crocheting, card making and Paint ’N Sip, during which students can bring their own libations.

Thomas started a monthly online newsletter that includes a free knitting pattern and information about new items and events in the store.

The classes are taught by Thomas and her mother, Terri Beal.

Thomas said she encourages customers to tell them what they would like to learn and the shop will provide instruction.

Moran said the store’s two peak seasons are in summer and then fall and winter as people buy yarn for the winter and begin early Christmas shopping.

She said the public’s interest in knitting and other handcrafts has never waned, but certain crafts are more popular at times.

Coloring books for adults have been a popular item for about a year. People color in the detailed pictures with colored pencils, markers and gel pens.

Shirley’s is well stocked in that department.

“We have a little bit of everything here,” Thomas said. “We’re Hancock County’s best kept secret.”

The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. In January, February and March the store closes at 4 p.m. For more info, call 667-7158.

Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]