Graham's Country Crafts is hanging on to its stock and trade despite the proliferation of crafts franchises along the Highway 101 corridor.
Helen and Carl Graham are good-natured about the competition, knowing their vast emporium is unique.
Their location in the bucolic Two Rock Valley means customers need a little determination to find th e store. But the Grahams are undaunted.
"People come here and say, 'I knew I could find it here,' " Helen Graham said.
The store, situated in a converted barn on Pepper Road, about 10 minutes from downtown, is filled to the ceiling with every imaginable craft supply and how-to book.
If a customer wants to know how to sculpt applehead figures, there's a slim book entitled "The Applehead Museum ."
Another book, "Egg Carton Novelties," describes how to transform ordinary egg cartons into decorative plaques or such animals as bunnies, ducks and poodles. The book, which has probably been on the shelf for years, is priced at 50 cents.
The Grahams joke that some of their merchandise may be 20 years old, but it's the truth. In many cases, the prices haven't changed and are a bargain in today's economy.
In addition to books on common crafts like doll making, seasonal decorations and fabric painting, booklets tell how to decorate an RV with macrame hangings or make mini dream-catchers.
The selection of videos is smaller, but if you're searching for video instruction in lampshade crafting, Graham's has it.
The couple stays abreast of what's new in the industry.
In early March, they flew to Las Vegas for a convention devoted to tole painting, decorative painting traditionally done on wood.
Although Graham's Country Crafts has everything needed for that type of project, the couple says it's important to check what's new in the marketplace to keep their inventory up to date - and to keep themselves up to date with suppliers.
"We go to so many crafts shows and so many of the distributors aren't there anymore," Carl Graham said. "They went out of business; even one of the big ones went out of business recently."
With yet another national competitor, Michael's Crafts, preparing to open in Petaluma, the Grahams are determined to stay in the business they began 33 years ago on their family farm.
Helen Graham was a teacher at the Petaluma Adult School, and after lugging supplies back and forth to town, she asked if she could teach the class at home. She was given permission as long as students enrolled, and since then she has had a steady flow of pupils.
Edna Schiele has been a faithful student for 20 years. Along the way, she became close friends with another long-time student, Julie Bernardini.
"This is like therapy," Schiele said. "There's nowhere else you can go and have classes like this."
Baernardini agreed. "We just sit around and talk to everybody. We know what they're doing," she sai d.
Classes are held Monday evenings and Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Students choose the projects they want to do and teachers with versatile experience help.
Many of the students and customers are middle-aged or senior citizens, bu t the Liberty 4-H club brings in children on a regular basis.
The store also hosts children's birthday parties, giving partygoers a project they can complete in one session.
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