by Len Lear
Known as a community of fiber enthusiasts, the Tangled Web Yarn Boutique, 7709 Germantown Ave., offers a large selection of yarn, needles and accessories for knitting and crocheting. The shop is known for featuring brand-name yarns from Cascade, Noro, Malbrigo, Ella Rae, Rowan and Be Sweet. The shop also sells a large variety of patterns and has hosted classes for both adults and children. (The Tangled Web opened at 7900 Germantown Ave. in 1994, but in 2008 they moved to their current location.)
Owner Mary Spratt, however, whose business has been open for over 20 years, has just enhanced her offerings by joining forces with antique merchant Robert Risner, 51, from Lancaster County. (“No, I am not Amish!” he says.) All of Mary’s traditional fiber products are still available but with the addition of the antiques.
“In the past several years, I have experienced a slowdown in my business, like many of the Chestnut Hill shops,” Spratt told us candidly last week. “I am sure that the economy and the internet have played a role, but I was determined to find a way to stay on the Avenue. My location is large, and much of the space was under-utilized, so I decided that sharing my space might be the answer. That is when I approached Rob Risner of Rob’s Antiques.”
We asked Risner, who began with Mary starting Nov. 10, a series of questions last week about this new collaboration. Here are his replies:
Where do you live now?
Since you are not from the Philly area, when and how did you wind up here?
My wife, named Mary also, works at The University of Pennsylvania, and we are looking to move into the area. My son also lives in Manayunk, and my daughter attends Philadelphia University. We have five children all over the age of 21. Whew! Their names are Mason, Dylan, Emy, Lauren and Ben.
What kind of work have you done between your school years and now?
I spent 29 years in the printing Industry, most recently as a Photoshop retouchcer.
How and when did you get into the antique business?
I have been selling online since 2000 and at local flea markets such as Renningers. I opened my first store early this year in Lancaster area.
How and when did the arrangement with The Tangled Web come about?
Mary and I connected thru a mutual friend, and after meeting, we thought our two businesses would work really well together.
Is there an area you specialize in? If so, what?
I like primitives and furniture, but what I really like to buy are items that catch my eye for being different.
You are surely aware that there are a great many antique shops in this area. How will you compete with them?
I am offering really great merchandise at a very good price. I will also work with a customer to find what they are looking for if I don’t have it in the shop. I have a very large pool of goods that I can access from friends in the business in Lancaster.
Has the popular TV show, “Antiques Roadshow,” had an effect on the antique business?
I think it has made people more aware that heirlooms passed on to them could be quite valuable, or at least they hope so.
What was the most valuable and/or unusual antique you have ever come across?
I stumbled across an unusual pair of ornate brass items that looked like table legs. They folded up to be flat. I later found out they were casket stands, and a man from Australia bought them from me.
How did the recession starting in 2008 affect the antique business?
I think everyone is being more careful how they are spending their money.
If you could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
Frank and Mike from the “American Pickers.” I could learn a lot from them, and they seem to really enjoy themselves. (Ed. Note: “American Pickers,” a companion to the History Channel’s popular series “Pawn Stars,” follows childhood friends Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, antiques collectors who travel the U.S. looking for rare artifacts and national treasures.)
If you could meet and spend time with anyone who is now deceased, who would it be?
Ben Franklin. A great man, inventor, printer, philanthropist and founding father. He always had a vision of making things better. He also seemed like he enjoyed life.
What is your ultimate goal here in Chestnut Hill?
I hope to bring wonderful merchandise to the area and have a successful business. I would love to get to know the area and people better.
Did you sign a lease? If so, for how many years?
It is a one-year agreement.
The Tangled Web will have an open house Sunday, Dec. 6, 1 to 4 p.m., with discounts, specials and refreshments.
For more information: 215-242-1271 or www.tangledweb.com