The recent acquisition of a 21,000-square-foot headquarters building in South Meadows is yet another company milestone for Jimmy Beans Wool.
Founded in 2002, Jimmy Beans Wool has grown from a humble 500-square-foot retail location in Truckee that sold coffee and yarn into an international operation that includes a 30,000-square-foot yarn-dyeing facility in Fort Worth, a sewing team in Vietnam, and a knitting needle manufacturing collaboration in India.
Jimmy Beans Wool had been working out of 20,000-square-feet of rented space on Joule Street near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Its new space formerly housed display mounting hardware firm Gyford Productions and includes an acre of land with ample parking, as well as a 4,000-square-foot retail space.
"Our lease was up, and we had been looking for a building for about two years," Laura Zander said. "This building has the quirkiest, weirdest buildout and the coolest features. It just fit us, and we decided that after 19 years, we are staying in Reno and are going to be here for a long time."
Twenty years ago, Zander and her husband moved to Truckee from San Francisco for a lifestyle change. Zander built a website for a woman who hand-dyed yarn, and she built another website for a customer in Grass Valley who made espresso carts. A service trade for hand-dyed yarn and a coffee cart gave birth to Jimmy Beans Wool - "Jimmy" being Zander's nickname.
Zander ran the Truckee location by herself for quite some time, but the 20-year-old company now boasts a headcount of about 30 in Northern Nevada and another 35 in Fort Worth, with an additional five employees working remotely.
Jimmy Beans Wool Imports yarn from mills located throughout the world and hand-dyes it at the Fort Worth facility. That team also packages and ships yarn products to domestic and international locations across the globe, but Jimmy Beans Wool in Reno is its biggest customer by volume. Zander purchased the dyeing facility about three years ago and tried to integrate the two sites into one team but found that they function best operating as separate business units.
"It just didn't work," she said. "They are two totally separate entities and cultures, and once we let go and let each entity be themselves, it worked a lot better."
The company's Reno operation, meanwhile, focuses on ecommerce fulfillment of yarn orders throughout the U.S., as well as product development, co-branding opportunities, public relations, marketing and retail. Jimmy Beans Wool also is in the midst of acquiring a yarn distribution company to further complement its portfolio of businesses.
"We are in growth mode by acquisition," Zander said. "The challenge we have had is probably similar to everyone in the area: How do you keep the people you have, and how do you keep their wages in line with the growing cost of living? The last couple of years we have really focused on increasing our margins so we can increase pay, and the easiest way (to do that) was to create our own products."
Sales of its own products account for roughly half the company's sales revenue, compared to zero just five years ago. In addition to making its own yarn, Jimmy Beans Wool manufactures handbags for knitters in the form of leather, waxed canvas and synthetic PU vegan leather. A team in China makes the products, while the sewing team in Vietnam makes different fabric cases from cotton, linen and other remnant fabrics, Zander said.
Jimmy Beans Wool emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic only slightly bruised - it had to close its retail store for eight months during the crisis.
The retail center will be a featured location in the upcoming Sierra Nevada Yarn Crawl, held Sept. 15-18. During the four-day event, thousands of knitters will visit Jimmy Bean's new South Meadows location, as well as yarn shops in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Minden, Grass Valley, Auburn and Placerville.
"It is the biggest retail weekend we have for the whole year," Zander said. "It's also a great way for small businesses who are often competitors to work together towards a common goal and be collaborators."
Zander told NNBW that the company's biggest challenge is finding new ways to adapt and grow.
"I thought five years ago that we had made it and we could just coast," she said. "But you can't - if you coast, you start going downhill and slowing down.
"We have been in what I call 'survival mode' for years, trying to figure out how to keep reinventing ourselves and stay on top."
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