Lilja's yarn store: Fiddling and feeling good

Text: Kreetta Haaslahti Photos: Julia Hannula

The idyllic landscapes full of fields and the yards of countryside houses are scattered around along the winding road that takes us from Pomarkku toward Siikainen and the village of Leväsjoki. The destination, an old country store, awaits in the junction of three roads. The pleasant facade is only a prelude to the atmosphere that envelopes us as we step in the door. Time does not stand still here. Time is wonderful here.

The permanent residents in the village of Leväsjoki, all 190 of them, are used to having merchandise at hand at all times. This is why they had to come up with something when the previous merchant, Ulla Rosengren, retired. The merchandise was switched to something completely different but the store survived, as Pauliina Lilja has filled the shelves with her yarn since 2014.

Liljan lankakauppa Leväsjoen kylässä © Julia Hannula

The old village store was given a new lease on life as a yarn store and a café.

Lilja's yarn store's story goes further back in time. The city girl from Pori ended up as the bride of a farmer long before this concept was utilised in a TV show. With time, there was less and less work at the family's farm and Pauliina had to find something else to do.
– I have done handicrafts since I can remember and I was pondering the lack of selection and decent prices. If you complete a lot of projects, it gets expensive to buy yarn, Pauliina relays the story behind her business idea.

"The possibility of failure is always there. Then, you just try something else."

First, Pauliina sold the idea to her husband, promising to handle everything herself from importing the goods to creating a website. The first year, she rented premises at the Leväsjoki school before she bought the village store and turned it beautiful with enthusiasm and wallpaper, after which she decided to add a café.
– It required a little bit of craziness, Pauliina smiles, as she reminisces how the store was started and continues to chat while unloading a load of yarn.
– The possibility of failure is always there. Then, you just try something else.  The yarn merchant's attitude probably helped her get started.

Amazingly fun work

The weather impacts the number of customers. Often women need the weather to be nice for them to drive to the yarn store. When it rains, they ask their husbands to drive. So, does the weather have an impact or not?
– Really, though, you can always find an excuse to have a hobby. And you can train your brain to think in a positive way, Pauliina hints and says about the week's weather forecast, that Thursday is – not semi-cloudy – but semi-sunny.

Lankakauppias Pauliina Lilja © Julia Hannula

Pauliina Lilja describes her work as amazingly fun.

Yarn merchant Lilja keeps getting the same question time and time again – how is this profitable?
– It depends on whether a normal car is enough or whether you need a Ferrari, she responds.
She gets paid for work that is amazingly fun and close to home. She doesn't have to waste time sitting in a car and commuting between work and home. The customers also enjoy themselves.

– The first customers of the day are men. They are not bothered by yarn. They drink their coffee and catch up with others at the café's tables. Around four o'clock, the same faces show up for the afternoon handicrafts club.

"The recipe for success is simple – yarn, coffee and a restroom."

Lilja's yarn store is the place to meet friends at the café's tables, catch up on what is going on and make agreements, whether it is about business, new jobs or contracts.
– I hear a lot of things here. I need to exercise a selective memory.

In Pauliina's view, the recipe for success is actually quite simple – yarn, coffee and a restroom.
– And the restroom has to be clean at all times.

The recipe seems to work. Customers arrive from as far as Turku, Tampere and Laitila.
– One woman specifically came here all the way from Hollola. And one time, there was a group of people from Laukaa on a minibus and I asked where they were heading to.

– This place, Lilja's yarn store, they answered.

Kyläläisten kohtauspaikka © Julia Hannula

The store café is an important meeting place for the people of the village and for those arriving from afar.

The focus is on a good atmosphere – and people

The yarn merchant has ideas for the future but she doesn't want to spread herself too thin.
– It is obvious if you are not financially stable.

"The most important thing is that the customers feel good when they head out the door."

Pauliina does not want that to happen. She wants her customers to feel good.
– You can come here to look for inspiration and fiddle with things. The most important thing is that when customers leave, they feel good – even if it means they are inspired to clean their homes.

The merchant does not seem to be in any kind of a rush. And if she is in a rush, she doesn't let it show.
– Customers are friends. They can talk about their lives here, between the shelves. Sometimes they want to talk about it, sometimes they don't.
– The most important thing is always the people. This is an insight that the years as an entrepreneur, first at the farm and then in the yarn store, have taught her.

The same has proven to be true in terms of sales channels as well.
– At this time, the sales are almost evenly fifty-fifty between the online store and the actual store. They are not mutually exclusive in any way. People are always needed.

Lankavalikoima on kattava © Julia Hannula

Lilja's yarn store offers an extensive basic selection of various kinds of yarn – there are over 40 kinds and over 1,000 different shades.

Pauliina also does as much handicrafts as time allows.
– When a new load of yarn arrives, I'm all messed up for a week. I like knitting the best and scarves are my favourites.

She says that scarves make excellent presents. They are kind of like hugs that the recipient can wrap around themselves.
– My husband's grandmother advised me to think about the recipient through every stitch. Not everyone understands it but I feel it's an invaluable piece of advice.