When Judy Maxwell closed Jack & Nitro’s Fiber and Yarn Shoppe in Harlem, she knew she wanted to keep it open at her alpaca farm.
But she never expected it to grow.
“It is more successful here,” said Maxwell, who runs the Twisted Fence Ranch and the yarn shop with her husband, Michael. “We knew we’d still sell the yarn and things to small groups, but we didn’t expect the public to come as much.”
The store offers all kinds of fiber and yarn, spinning wheels, spinning and knitting supplies and birdhouses, milk soaps, pottery and artwork by local artists.
It is open from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at 134 Misty Woods Drive in Grovetown, near Patriots Park and the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
But the supplies aren’t the reason many people visit the ranch.
Diana Gardener comes out to enjoy the peaceful respite from her busy life and knit outside while the farm’s six alpacas – Nitro, Jack, Rodney, Lula, Junebug, and Ironman – wander in a nearby pasture. She brings her children, who enjoy the animals.
Dianne Collins is a regular at the ranch, spinning, knitting and enjoying the many animals.
“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be,” Collins said. “We inspire each other. We calm each other down. We pep each other up. Whatever we need.”
Gathering around the skirting table is like a quilting bee, a place to get all the latest gossip, Collins said.
Maxwell said she was surprised when some of the regulars at her store, which closed at the end of November, didn’t mind the mess after moving the store to her home.
“Everything was stacked up in the driveway from our store,” Maxwell said. “Everyone kept coming, stepped over the boxes and helped unpack stuff and set everything up. So in March, we went ahead and told everyone, ‘We’re not really closed. We’re still here.’ ”
The move to the ranch allowed Maxwell to expand the business to include skirting, washing and picking. She’ll also dye, custom blend and spin fibers.
Maxwell said patrons can come and do as many of the steps themselves or pay her to do it for them.
“A lot of people come here with an idea in their head,” Maxwell’s husband said. “They see a fiber that they want, they pick it up off the shelf and sit down and start to work.”
When the weather is nice, the group enjoys sitting outside near the animals, which also includes llama Rose, llapaca Frank, Larry the angora rabbit, two goats and several chickens. In the heat of the summer or frigid winter temperatures, the group moves into the Maxwell’s home, where the bottom floor is dedicated to the business.
“They love that,” Maxwell said of the group working inside, where the curious animals come right up to the sliding glass door. “That’s why they want to sit in here.”
The animals are a primary reason Collins said she enjoys visiting the ranch twice each week.
“It is funny,” she said of the alpacas coming up to the door for treats. “They are just precious.”
The Maxwells raise alpacas for their fiber, which makes great spun yarn, Maxwell said.
But she also offers field trips for school and home-school pupils. They learn about the history of alpacas as well as get a hands-on fiber-processing demonstration.
Maxwell said she’s happy to have moved the business to the ranch and is glad to see people enjoying her 3-acre farm.