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Rach-Al-Paca opens new yarn store

Hastings’ new yarn store isn’t big, and it’s not traditional retail. But it does offer a variety of natural yarn and fiber products, all of it local. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)1 / 2
Besides standard yarn, the shop carries a variety of material for making rugs. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)2 / 2

Rachel and Alan Boucher, owners of Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Processing, are expanding their business. Last weekend, they opened a small store on their fiber farm, where they can sell all sorts of natural fiber products.

Rachel Boucher has been making yarn from her alpacas and sheep since 2004, she said. Since then, she’s been taking it to fiber shows to sell. Between shows, her stock occupied the couple’s dining room. She also sells some items online but found that those sales are more difficult.

“It’s hard to sell yarn online because people want to touch it,” she said. “It’s very tactile.”

She started looking around at other yarn stores in the area and realized that the closest stores to Hastings were still some ways away — Apple Valley had one, and now the closest is in Cannon Falls, she said. So she decided to add a small retail aspect to their fiber processing mill in rural Hastings, using her existing stock to get things started.

“Since I have so much of it, it made sense,” she said.

The little store is located on the farm, at 18495 Goodwin Ave., staffed by Boucher and the staff already working at the mill.

“It’s just kind of a natural extension of the mill,” she said.

The store offers a variety of yarn, all of it machine made right there at the Rach-Al-Paca mill. The store also sells roving, felts, socks (made from local fiber by another small business in Pennsylvania), blending fibers, rugs, hats, scarves and even a limited number of sheep pelts. Alan Boucher, a photographer, also has some of his local photography for sale. For alpaca enthusiasts, there are even Minnesota-made alpaca shaped cookie cutters, which have been surprisingly popular, Rachel Boucher said.

The prices might be a bit higher than one would expect from a big box retailer, but Boucher said that the product is also much different. Besides being all natural fiber, unlike many mass market yarns, hers come with individual characteristics. Customers can buy fiber from the same animal year after year, and not only that, they can walk a few steps outside and meet the animal in person.

“People can say ‘I met this sheep,” Boucher said. “That’s kind of special.”

Many of the yarns are still their natural color; the only time she dyes her product is to produce bright colors that are obviously unnatural.

“It’s a unique artisanal product,” she said.

Eventually, Boucher said she would like to see the store grow enough to be able to sell some products from other customers at the mill as well. Her goal, she added, is to “help my fellow fiber producers sustain their farms.”

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Boucher said that customers may call to set up a time to stop by outside those hours.

The farm may be contacted by calling 651-485-7916 or emailing rachalpacafarm@aol.com. The website is www.rachalpacafarm.com.

For now, the store doesn’t have an official name. Boucher said that they are taking suggestions, however, and whoever makes the suggestion closest to the name they pick will get a free pair of socks from the store. Anyone with a suggestion is asked to contact them.

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