From innovative ideas to the twists and turns of real-life experiences, we seek to motivate all kids – from those who've already taken the leap to kids who don't yet have it on their radar.
When you walk into The Yarn Company, a second level shop in New York’s Upper West Side, you’re immediately surrounded by stacks of colorful yarns from all over the world. You’ll also find Romy Ronen, age 11, roaming the floor. When she’s not at school or doing homework, Romy spins yarn, works the register, helps customers find the right material for their project, and occasionally teaches one of the myriad of classes the store offers its customers.
Romy has become a member of the knitting community that thrives within its walls and a staunch supporter of the business her mother, Tavy Ronen, and uncle, Assaf Ronen, purchased last March. “It’s just fun to be here,” says Romy, who knows the store inside and out. “I like to play and go to the park and stuff too, but I like being at the store.”
The Ronens purchased the 32-year-old business after Tavy, who was a customer of the store, received a group email from the owners saying they were looking to sell. Tavy, a professor of finance at Rutgers University, and Assaf, a corporate lawyer, purchased the store to fulfill a dream of their mother to own a small business dedicated to arts and crafts. The dwarf orange trees, a family symbol of sorts, sit in the window as a reminder of the store’s roots.
When the siblings remodeled the store, they replaced all existing shelving with units designed by Assaf, reorganized the yarns, painted the walls and revealed two storefront windows that had been covered for years. Romy got interested in the store at the very beginning and voiced her ideas about the layout during the remodeling.
“My biggest helper was my daughter, and I didn’t expect that,” Tavy says. “I didn’t think she’d take any real interest in this except to get yarn and work on projects. But she made so many suggestions, she really shaped the way the store is today.”
The store focuses on how the yarn looks, so they organized it by color, instead of gauge, as it previously had been, Tavy says. Her daughter continues to help with the store’s color scheme. “I never order yarn without her,” says Tavy. “I’ve discovered I can’t. She’s really good with color. She has such an amazing visual eye,” her mother beams. “She’s constantly coming up with ideas that are really very good.”
Sewing and knitting are relatively new passions for Romy. Two years ago, the mother/daughter team took classes on a summer trip to Israel, where Tavy was born. “Mom tried to teach me when I was younger but I was scared of needles, so it didn’t work out,” says Romy. Years later, with a couple summers of classes under her belt and the fear of needles behind her, Romy has surpassed her mother’s skills and enjoys soaking up new techniques.
Romy’s passion for knitting has blossomed into other projects. Romy suggested creating a blog built around the doll sitting above the store’s register. Romy and the staff knit sample outfits for the doll and then blog about the knitting process. The idea caught the eye of an editor for an online knitting blog who recently asked Romy to write for her site.
Shortly after the store opened, Romy was browsing on Ravelry.com, a “Facebook for knitters,” searching for a way to help the victims of the tsunami in Japan. She found a charity drive built around knitting scarves with Japanese yarns, and asked if they could promote the charity at the shop. Not only did she make a couple of scarves herself, she also led workshops at the store and helped customers complete their projects so the finished scarves could be sent to Japan for the relief effort.
While many customers are happy to have Romy’s help, as evidenced by the attendance of her workshops and the friendly greetings she receives throughout our interview, at least one person isn’t a fan of Romy’s presence in the store. A few months ago, a woman came into the Yarn Company and was appalled to see Romy helping customers behind the register. She voiced her complaint on the shop’s Citysearch page. “In my opinion, a child should be out having fun being a child anyway and not working in a store and it’s definitely against most labor laws in the country,” the review reads.
Even though it is legal for a child to help out at a family business, the words left their mark on Romy. “She wouldn’t go near the register for over a month,” says her mother.
“I just wondered why,” recalls Romy. “I’m not an employee — my mom’s not making me be an employee. I don’t want a job — I have other things to do. I was just having fun and helping my mom. I’m a kid and I want to have fun and I have fun doing this.”
Luckily, the criticism didn’t keep Romy’s spirits down for too long. After getting reassurances from her family and friends, Romy is back behind the register and happy to help any customers who recognize her passion for knitting and sewing and the family business.
So, does Romy plan to run her own business someday? “Maybe it’s one of the things I want to do, but I want to keep up a family tradition,” she says. “I want to be a college professor.” Until then, Romy will be the 11-year-old go-getter with the infectious smile at The Yarn Company waiting to give you a hand.
Discuss this: Would you want your kid to be part of the family business?
If someone criticized your child for helping at your store, as Romy experienced, what would you say to get her confidence back?