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Hobby-knobbing

Sometimes there are so many people looking to get their yarn on, they're knitting in the aisles at Needles and Knobs.

"It gets pretty crazy in here," said Audrey Dantowitz, who, with her husband, Eliot, opened the yarn and hardware store in September at 7213 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Thursday nights are open-knit night and the couple often runs out of couch space and extra chairs.

The shop has about 1,000 different kinds of yarn, as well as dozens of varieties of upscale cabinet hardware. The odd mix makes perfect sense to the Dantowitzes, who say customers shopping for one are inadvertently attracted to the other.

"This is more of a boutique," said Audrey, 43, a lifelong knitter who had been in traveling sales for hardware but now runs the same kind of business from the storefront instead of the back of a van. "Most of this is higher end."

The hardware appeals to those building or remodeling a home, Audrey said, and includes brands like Siro, Soko, Emenee and Top Knobs. Many of her customers are the designers she used to court before she had the store.

The yarn has a broader appeal, but is still a niche product because the store sells specialty yarns. They have skeins made from silk, soy, wool, hemp, corn, bamboo, milk, even a combination product that includes seashell, which gives it an inherent antibacterial and deodorizing quality. "It's great for socks," Audrey said.

The yarn varieties show how different knitting has become, said Eliot, who learned to knit after marrying Audrey two years ago. Some yarns run the rainbow from one end to the other, creating multicolored products from a single thread.

"It's not just for old people," said Eliot, 40, who spent 15 years as a RadioShack store manager before venturing into Needles and Knobs. "It's become a very popular hobby. It's definitely therapeutic."

Being a quiet task, there is chatter on knitting nights. Often that conversation connects to home remodeling, which enhances the other part of the business. On Sundays, though, the couple sit in the store knitting and watching football on a wide-screen TV. They're not open for business.

The couple is working on more classes for new knitters but is still trying to gauge demand. They also do some consignment sales for when customers knit something well but just don't like it.

As they try to make this a full-time business, the Dantowitzes are exploring new ways to broaden their market. Most of the customers who come to visit greet the little store with a "wow," Audrey said.

"It's changed a lot since I was learning as a little girl," she said.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com .

Fast facts

Needles and Knobs

7213 Central Ave.

345-5660

needlesandknobs@ tampabay.rr.com

Grand opening: Dec. 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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