TURLOCK — For Charlene Fry, owning her own store was a longtime dream. She and her husband had been involved in several other startups — including a sandwich shop and a lumberyard — but neither had been her own.
“I wanted to open up like a country store,” Fry said.
Long after being bought out of her previous businesses, Fry’s dream finally came to fruition when she opened Needful Things. It’s a shop near downtown Turlock that specializes in yarn, candles, organic soaps, taffy and more.
For Fry, the vision filled a gap in Turlock’s business offerings. A local yarn store had closed not long before and there wasn’t anything quite like this on Main Street.
As for the name, it’s a nod to a book by her favorite author, Stephen King. “I happened to be reading (“Needful Things”), and I told my husband it would be a cute name for a shop.”
Her dog, Cujo, a 12-pound terrier-schnauzer-looking rescue, is the shop’s official greeter.
To open Needful Things, Fry pulled $40,000 from her personal savings.
“You know, anytime you start a business, it’s a couple years (to turn a profit),” Fry explained. “You need to be adding to your business so that money goes into there.”
Fry sells items she purchases wholesale from other businesses.
“People think I’m making candles and taffy at night. I’m not,” Fry laughed.
She also rents space to vendors to bring in additional inventory and income. Cost varies based on square footage, and spaces range from a shelf to an entire room.
Fry also takes a percentage of total sales to cover the cost of bags, the credit card machine, gift-wrap, advertising and manpower to sell the items.
Vendors include Nature Loves Skin and Queen Bean’s Treasures.
“I just happened to stumble onto her shop one day,” said Queen Bean’s Treasures’ owner Regina Bean. “I was in there as a customer.”
Bean had been looking for a second vendor opportunity for her collection of upcycled, shabby chic furniture and home décor. She asked Fry about her business, and when she realized there was an opening, she jumped at it.
In mid-September, Needful Things became Bean’s second location (the other is in Linden) and in October, 50 percent of her sales came from Fry’s store. She is now Fry’s largest vendor.
“The thing that I really loved about coming onboard with Charlene is she allowed me the freedom to turn my room into whatever I wanted,” Bean said. She painted the room she rents and rearranges items whenever she wants. “Not all places allow you that freedom.”
Fry identifies location as her biggest obstacle. Located at 151 Thor St., she’s just off Main Street. Her side street location disqualifies her from being part of the Turlock Downtown Association.
She said friendly shop owners keep her in the loop, but the association itself leaves her out of meetings because of her address.
Fry said her location on Thor Street would be an issue anyway.
“The way Thor runs through town, it kind of runs crooked,” she explained. “It’s a struggle to get people to know where we are.”
She hopes getting on Yelp and being recognized as a yarn shop will help with that.
“There is a new (building) owner, and I’m working on getting some lights outside,” Fry said of plans to increase accessibility. “We put signs down on the corner. It just takes time. Some time and some patience.”
For the most part, Fry waves it off as a normal part of owning a new business.
In addition to shop owner, Fry’s resume includes Realtor and real estate assistant at Century 21 (located across the street from her building) so her location was by no means a coincidence.
Fry said she looked at multiple spaces on Main Street, but at 3,600 to 6,000 square feet, they were all too big. Instead, she set her sights on the 1,500-square-foot shop with its own parking that she’s in now.
“Being a startup business, you don’t want to jump in there and be spending all your money on rent,” she said.
Fry is also gaining a reputation for stocking a specialty yarn with a very specific purpose.
It’s called Ultra Pima and Ultra Pima Fine. It’s a 100 percent cotton yarn that’s not widely available, but she carries it for a group of local ladies who call themselves Chicks with Sticks.
The knitting/crocheting masters use the specialty yarn to create knit prosthetic breasts for breast cancer patients. It’s part of a larger organization based in Washington dubbed Knitted Knockers.
Not only does Fry carry the expensive yarn just for them, she offers a 10 percent discount to anyone associated with the group.
“I think she’s the only one that carries it around here,” said the group’s organizer, Susie Wurm Marshall. “It’s not sold at like Michael’s or any of the other places that sell yarn.”