Eye on the ball

Fuzzy Goat proprietress Cadence Kidwell watches a ball winder and swift in action for a customer’s order.

THOMASVILLE — Fiber brings people together and the yarn connecting one local businesswoman to her realized dream is a long, but lovingly dyed and cultivated one.

Cadence Kidwell is proprietress of Fuzzy Goat, a downtown Thomasville shop that caters to those who prefer knitting needles in hand to other creative outlets. She believes in the power of yarn, and how her love of knitting inspired her dream to open her own yarn haven and help foster that love in others.

“I am inspired every day by how fiber brings us together,” Kidwell said. “We’re using yarns lovingly dyed by independent dyers; using their creative vision to make our vision. It is empowering to take beautiful string and make something lovely for yourself or to give to someone you love.”

The store, often described by customers as “charming” and “eclectic,” focuses on “attainable challenges” for its customers. Fuzzy Goat even has its own knitting lodge and classroom, where accomplished stitchers can help novices learn how to work the needles so their own visions come to life between their fingers.

“We’ve taught over 70 knitters and brought them together with the experienced fiber artists already here,” Kidwell said. “We’ve dedicated space to a lodge and to a classroom just to create community.”

Knitters range from grandmothers and granddaughters knitting together to people knitting hats for persons undergoing chemotherapy.

Customer Dana Davidoff tells people she meets, even if they don’t already knit, to visit the store because of its unique character, bright colors, “accessibility” and “community.”

“I’m totally enamored with this store,” she said. “Everyone here is so helpful, and everybody wants to see you succeed. You can’t go wrong coming in here.”

Customers have ventured to Fuzzy Goat from as far as Canada, and many genuine connections have been formed through the yarn trail.

“One of the things l love most is when the new knitters come back with their challenges and we figure it out together,” Kidwell said. “It is so important for us to learn new things and to be humble enough to ask for help — we rarely do that in daily life – and it forms real connections.”

Kidwell grew up in Coral Gables, Fla., with “a very creative mother” who now makes art quilts (including the Fuzzy Goat quilt logo over the store’s mantel). She has a doctorate in creative writing, and her dissertation is a novel about the time her American parents lived in Cuba in 1959 (the time of the Cuban Revolution).

She moved to this area with her husband in 1980. It was here, in her 20s, Kidwell heard the call of the yarn.

“On a whim, I found someone to teach me to knit and she insisted my first project be a cardigan with rows of cables,” she recalled.

Though it was a tough first project, Kidwell was hooked. She’s knitted whenever/wherever she could for decades. When she couldn’t knit, she was planning knitting projects. A frequent weekend visitor to downtown Thomasville, the idea for her own store came to Kidwell one day in 2013.

Kidwell admitted her dream “originally seemed out of reach,” but persistence and help from small business supporters – including Downtown Thomasville Main Street – helped make her idea for the store come true.

“It really took off when I met with the Main Street program and saw the support available,” Kidwell said.

Main Street gave Kidwell a list of downtown properties, which included 223 West Jackson St. (Fuzzy Goat’s address).

“It was painted gray with peeling paint, the windows covered with Fast Tax stickers,” she recalled. “Inside was even worse. The roof leaked and the floor buckled. But it was a good price.”

She appreciated the proximity to Thomasville Center for the Arts (TCA) and local independent businesses, which offered opportunities for collaborations. And, she liked that the location could be part of upcoming local events like TCA’s FLAUNT, which was held a few days after the store opened.

“I loved the idea that even if I didn’t live here yet (she once lived in Thomasville, and plans to move back soon), I could be a part of building something bigger than just my little shop,” Kidwell said.

Once she’d settled upon the building, then came finances and negotiations with the seller. Though many obstacles littered her path – including contract time lapses, agencies working together for the first time, and even a snow storm – Kidwell never gave up. She even obtained the trademark for Fuzzy Goat. “When I ran into one road block I would work on another aspect,” Kidwell said. “I also learned to respectfully ask for advice everywhere you can.”

Once she acquired the building, work began. The primary hurdle in preserving the building’s original character was the water damage from the leaks. The effort to restore the building won a 2014 Thomasville Landmark’s “Award of Outstanding Achievement.” Work done included: replacement of transom windows and removal of bulkheads that blocked interior windows; use of original flooring and tin ceiling tiles; exposure of two brick walls and reveal of an flue and a filled-in chimney space; reclaiming a framed-in skylight; old, rusty tin tiles from the roof became an interior wall; repurpose of old pine shelving to panel another built wall; and, barn doors for the classroom.

Once the building was ready, Kidwell (who had been working in university administration at Florida State University) turned her full attention to the store. Fuzzy Goat opened in August 2014. Kidwell said it was a long, exhausting, but invigorating journey. She is thrilled with the outcome and her location, in an area of downtown historically known as “The Bottom.” She is invested in both the success of her business and the community prosperity of West Jackson Street. “I’ve got a fantastic backyard, and a great sign right on the main entry to Thomasville in the heart of downtown,” Kidwell said. “I believe in the future of ‘The Bottom’. Community is very important to me, being a good neighbor and being a part of someone else’s success. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than downtown or West Jackson.”

The store has even become a family affair. Her daughter, Carolina Kidwell-Bozeman, helps out two days a week, and Kidwell said customers make a point to come by on those days to talk with Carolina because she’s young and full of new ideas.

And, though she knows knitters will come to the yarn, Kidwell also enjoys the passersby who walk into the store and find a new creative outlet. “The best is when someone comes in and says, ‘I didn’t know what knitting was but now that I’ve walked around I want to learn,’” she said.

Perhaps Fuzzy Goat customer Suzanne Alexander knit together the best explanation of why this creative outlet matters.

“It’s so satisfying to make something that lasts,” she said.

“Here, the possibilities are endless.”